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Naomi Osaka: From Tennis Star to fighting Social Injustice!

Naomi Osaka spoke about her mental health, her relationship with sports media and her excitement to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in an essay written for Time magazine’s Olympic preview issue. (click here for full article)
Naomi has been a lot in the news recently, making headlines when she withdrew from French Open , launching her Netflix documentary and announcing on Twitter recently that she will be the first Haitian and Japanese woman to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Osaka, the world’s No. 2-ranked women’s tennis player, hasn’t played since May, when she followed through on her promise to skip a mandatory post-match news conference at the French Open – she mentioned there the need to take care of her wellbeing bringing mental health awareness topic to the table. She was subsequently fined $15,000, then withdrew from the tournament and from Wimbledon. Her decision sparked diverse reactions in the media.
Following her announcement, sports analyst , Clay Travis , tweeted about the covers , writing, “Since saying she’s too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue.” Megyn Kelly, Fox News talk show host, joined Travis, accusing the tennis player of “faking it because she wanted more publicity and does not like to answer uncomfortable questions about her mediocre performance as of late”.

Osaka had a pointed reply to Kelly, that she’s since deleted. The Grand Slam champ apparently retweeted Kelly, writing, “Seeing as you’re a journalist I would’ve assumed you would take the time to research what the lead times are for magazines, if you did that you would’ve found out I shot all of my covers last year. Instead, your first reaction is to hop on here and spew negativity, do better Megan.”

This is not the first time Osaka has made headlines. But she’s made it clear, this is her moment to speak up about what she believes in: From the importance of having women in leadership positions, to mental health awareness, to racial inequality and discrimination or outdated rules in tennis.
As a multicultural, multiracial, Japanese-Haitian-American woman, Naomi represents the modern world on and off the courts. She’s not just a tennis champion, but an entrepreneur and role model for young people across the globe.

At three years old, Naomi and her family moved from Osaka to New York, before settling in Florida. Naomi and her sister began practicing tennis with their father by day and homeschooling by night. It wasn’t long before Naomi’s grasp of the game, powerful serve and strong forehand became impossible to ignore. In 2013, she went pro, representing her native Japan. Three years later, the women’s tennis association named her “Newcomer of the Year.” In 2018, on the back of her first Tour title in Indian Wells, 20-year-old Naomi played her childhood idol Serena Williams in the US Open final. She bested the 23-time Grand Slam Champion in a dramatic match that sealed her first major title. The following year, Naomi won the Australian Open, a victory that solidified her as the world’s No. 1, a first for any Asian player.

Today, she’s only the third person in history to have won all four of her first Grand Slam finals — winning the US Open and Australian Open twice. Naomi’s career catapulted her into instant stardom, where she now uses her platform not only to wow the world with exceptional tennis, but also to fight social inequity. At the US Open, for example, Osaka sent a powerful message to the world of tennis and beyond. She wore seven face masks, each of them emblazoned with the name of a different black American killed by police violence.

As a college athlete, sophomore Iman Baker had some thoughts about what Osaka’s win and masks statement meant for her.

“It’s very brave of her to do this and it shows me as a college athlete it’s okay to speak up and not be afraid to speak about social issues, fearing lack of support by the public.”

Osaka , will return to competition at the Tokyo Olympics, where she will represent her home country!

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will provide a unique platform to highlight progress and change. Osaka believes the Games can contribute to creating a more inclusive society: “Sport is such an amazing vehicle that brings people together, and especially the Olympic spirit. There are athletes from all different places, with different stories and different challenges, and I hope we can start highlighting the more unique Olympic athlete stories that not only touch upon the journey to the Games, but also can highlight heritage and the adversity faced outside the sport. That would be such a good way to be more inclusive.”

We are looking forward to seeing Osaka compete at the Tokyo Olympics! In the meantime, you can watch her New Netflix Documentary! Here’s a preview of it!

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