Georgia Slatter, PEOPLE
Naomi Osaka’s boyfriend Cordae had a lot to learn about tennis when he first started dating the world-renowned champion.
As the cover stars for GQ‘s Modern Love issue, the couple opened up about their evolving relationship and how they learn from one another as two powerhouses in their respective fields.
The pair, who first starting seeing each other two years ago, had been together for nearly a year before going public. Their first date was at a Los Angeles Clippers game.
“I just remember seeing that there were so many people who wanted to take a picture with him. And I just thought it was really cool how friendly and welcoming he was with everyone,” Osaka recalled of their first date.
Cordae, however, admitted that he didn’t know what Osaka was famous for at the time.
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“It’s not my sport,” the rapper, born Cordae Amari Dunston, said. “If you asked me about tennis, before being immersed in it because of Naomi, I could only give you Venus and Serena Williams, you know? Because they’re just a part of the culture.”
The Grammy-nominated artist, 23, went on to reveal that he “felt really out of place” when he went to the 2019 U.S. Open to cheer on his girlfriend.
“I don’t know if I ever told Naomi this or not, but I felt really out of place. Like, that was my first time being in an environment like that in my entire life,” he said to GQ. “My elementary school, middle school, high school was 99.9 percent Black. Kids who look like me. It just felt really weird for me being in that space. That was my first tennis match ever.”
Osaka, 23, said there was only an adjustment period in the “beginning” as her boyfriend has “a completely different work style than me.”
“I start super early in the morning, and then I end late afternoon. But I feel like for him everything starts at night. So it was kind of hard to adjust to that in the beginning. But when I did, I felt pretty comfortable,” she told GQ. “I wouldn’t say there was a moment where I felt like he did when he went to the Open or anything like that.”
Osaka, who defeated Serena Williams in the Australian Open women’s singles semifinals this week, said she’s also gone on tour with Cordae, which she called “a fun adventure.”
He’s also introduced her to “a lot of older music,” which the athlete said is “a really interesting thing about him.”
“He knows the whole catalog of everyone,” she added. “I feel like the knowledge that he has about his craft and his passion is so much more vast than mine.”