Yesterday, Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open, her second Grand Slam title in a row. 

And this morning, the 21-year-old Japanese native accomplished something that's never been done: 

She became the number one ranked female tennis player in the world, the first player from Asia ever to do so. 

Beyond these amazing feats, though, something even more marvelous stands out: It's Osaka's ability to exude grace and humility through it all.  

If you've never seen the young tennis phenom give an interview, you owe it to yourself to do so. Just check out this two-minute gem from yesterday, right after Osaka's victory:

Osaka begins by addressing the thousands in attendance with a sheepish "hello," which is met with laughter. 

"Sorry, public speaking isn't really my strong side," she says. "So I just hope I can get through this."

Osaka then went on to congratulate her opponent, Petra Kvitova, who has fought hard to return to form after she was injured in a horrific knife attack within her own home just two years ago. 

"I've always wanted to play you," Osaka says. "You're really amazing, and I'm really honored to have played you in the final of a grand slam."

Osaka goes on to thank the fans for their support and efforts to attend one of the premiere sports events in the world, because, as she puts it, "it's really hot all the time." 

She thanks the tournament director and her team.

She even thanks the umpires, the volunteers who make the tournament possible, and "the ball kids running around in the heat."

Of course, many will say that this is nothing special, that this is just like countless other victory speeches that have come before it.

Except, that it's not. 

It's not because it isn't just the words Osaka uses, or whom she chooses to thank. (Although I honestly can't remember the last champion who thanked the ball boys and girls.)

It's also the way Osaka speaks and carries herself. The "umms" and "uhhs." The way she politely bows, Japanese style, before her opponents, administrative officials, and others.

And when an interviewer recently asked Osaka if she was ready to become the face of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she responded in typical Naomi Osaka fashion:

"Yikes," she said, cringing. "Hopefully for their sake they don't do that."

All of this comes together to paint a picture of a young person who is very mature, very respectful. And although she is currently the best in the world at what she does, she refuses to put herself on a pedestal.

This humility is so endearing because we live in a world that promotes boastful, self-aggrandizing behavior. Even children are raised to feel a certain sense of entitlement, especially if they've accomplished something.

But this type of behavior actually pushes others away. No one wants to be around someone who thinks they're God's gift to the world--or that they should be treated as such.

In contrast, the humble person naturally draws others to them. 

There's serious research to back this up. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently published a piece titled The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses. 

In it, writer Sue Shellenbarger cited studies that indicated:

  • Teams whose leaders demonstrated humble traits performed better and did higher-quality work than teams whose leaders showed less humility
  • Upper-management teams at companies with "humble" chief executives were more likely to "work smoothly together, help one another, and share decision-making," when compared with other teams 
  • Such companies are likely to have smaller pay gaps between the CEO and other senior executives, which in turn predicted closer collaboration, leading to greater company-wide efficiency, innovation, and profitability

That's right: humility can help you to be more successful. But even more importantly, it will keep you from being ruined by that success.

So, Miss Osaka, I beg you: Keep learning. Keep growing. 

And please, keep showing us what it looks like to stay humble through it all.

Published on: Jan 28, 2019
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