Naomi Osaka claimed her second US Open title on Saturday, defeating Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday. It is her third Grand Slam title after the 2018 US Open and the 2019 Australian Open. She defeated Azarenka after she retired from the previous WTA Master’s Tournament, the Western and South Open.
After the game, the 22-year-old Osaka said that she had to overcome a “bad attitude” moment as she feared an embarrassing defeat at some point.
The Japan-born Osaka started the game with a horrendous opening set. She even chucked her racket. Osaka was able to turn it around, though she had to work hard for the win and fight Azarenka’s robust baseline hitting.
“I just thought it would be embarrassing to lose this in less than an hour,” Naomi Osaka said after the play, adding that she was motivated by how poorly she had played.
Before each of her seven matches during the US Open, Osaka wore face masks bearing the name of Afro-American victims of police violence and racial profiling.
In an ESPN interview after the last match, she talked about the message behind the gesture. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking,” Osaka said.
She highlighted that she was inside the players’ bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic and was unable to follow on what is going on outside. Her only connection with the world was social media. “I feel the more retweets it gets, the more people talk about it,” Naomi Osaka noted.
On her face masks, Osaka wore the names of Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tamir Rice. Martin’s family and Arbery’s father appreciated her gesture and thanked her for raising awareness.
Earlier this week, Osaka commented that she felt like a “vessel” that can spread awareness and make people talk. It would not dull the pain of the victims’ families, she noted.
According to her coach Wim Fissette, Naomi Osaka’s activism against racial injustice in the US has boosted her motivation and energy during the tournament.
The Belgian Fissette previously worked with major winners Simona Halep, Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova, and Angelique Gerber. He said he was very proud of Naomi’s decision to withdraw from her semifinal at the Western & Southern Open after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.
”It’s a very important topic for her,” Fissette said, highlighting that her whole team fully supports her. ”She wants to be a role model on and off the court,” Fissette noted.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Fissette’s opinion that her activism helped her win the tournament?