Naomi Osaka wins US Open

Chiara Purificato

Naomi Osaka is a name now familiar to many after her second US Open victory, defeating American tennis star Serena Williams six to two and six to four in the semi-finals and Victoria Azarenka one to six, six to three, and six to three last Saturday in the finals. However, tennis wasn’t the only aspect of her noteworthy performance. Twenty two-year-old Osaka, like many other professional athletes, made it her mission to use her platform to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Over the course of her seven matches, she sported seven masks each with a different name of a black victim of violence. Beginning with the first match, Osaka honored Breonna Taylor, followed by Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and honored on her mask for her final match was 12-year old victim to police brutality Tamir Rice. Osaka said that her motive derived from “Want[ing] more people to say more names.” She added, “The point is to make people start talking.”

Although the public had doubts about the high caliber Grand Slam tournament during the Coronavirus pandemic, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was able to pull it off professionally while following CDC guidelines in order to keep everyone safe. The only time players were allowed to remove their masks was during play, before and after athletes were masked up. The USTA implemented a strict tier system with protocols for the limited spectators that were allowed. 

 After the culmination of Osaka’s victory in the finals on Sunday, she laid down on the court staring towards the sky, a moment she had always dreamed of. Representing Japan, Osaka became the first athlete in 26 years to win the US Open Women’s final after losing the first set. Osaka received praise not only for her athletic performance but for her ability to make a statement and fight for social justice. Tennis legend Billie Jean King commended her, saying, “I really admire what she’s done. Sports is a platform, and women’s tennis, we are the leaders in women’s sports, and Naomi has really stepped up.”

Osaka celebrated her victory in style and channeled her Haitian side, by wearing a traditional head wrap used to signify sentimental moments. Fresh off of her US Open victory, Osaka announced Thursday night she would not be competing in the French Open due to a hamstring injury. Although she will not make an appearance in the next Grand Slam, Osaka has made a statement and garnered a place in the future of women’s tennis.