Highest-paid female athlete in the world, Naomi Osaka, has joined the wave of strikes in major U.S. sports leagues to protest racial injustice by withdrawing from her semi-final at the Western Open and the South, which was to be played on Thursday afternoon.
Minutes after Osaka completed their media duties after a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Anett Kontaveit in New York City, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their NBA playoff game against Orlando Magic after the shot from Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, near Milwaukee. The strikes have now spread throughout the American sports world and include teams from the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS.
“Hello, as many of you know, I was scheduled to play my semi-final game tomorrow,” Osaka wrote in a statement on its social media accounts. “However, before I became an athlete, I was a black woman. And as a black woman, I feel like there are much more important things at my fingertips that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.
“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen if I don’t play, but if I can strike up a conversation in a predominantly white sport, I consider it a step in the right direction. Watching the continued black genocide at the hands of the police honestly makes my stomach ache. I’m exhausted having a new hashtag every few days and extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will that ever be enough?
Osaka, who was one of the first athletes to travel to Minnesota this summer to protest and pay homage to George Floyd, punctuated his post by hashtagging the names of black people killed by police: Blake, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and Floyd.
Earlier Wednesday, Osaka faced a 4-6, 0-2, 30-40 deficit against Kontaveit before crushing a 114 mph ace to save the breaking point, then bouncing back nine straight games. She eventually pulled off a tight final set to secure her third win of the week. She was to face the Belgian Elise Mertens in the semi-final, who will now have direct access to the final. The US Open begins August 31.
Former No.1 Victoria Azarenka went on to defeat fit Ons Jabeur to reach her first meaningful semi-final since March 2018. Azarenka is currently ranked 59th and has struggled since returning to the tour in 2017 after giving birth to a son, in part due to an enduring custody battle that contributed to his absence from the Australian Open this year.
In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic continued his unparalleled start to the season by securing his 21st consecutive victory by dismantling Germany’s Jan Lennard Struff 6-1, 6-3 in just 62 minutes. Djokovic will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-final.
Although the players had the option of returning to competition earlier this month, the men have all restarted their seasons in New York and it is not yet clear who is up to challenge Djokovic.
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev appeared to be a worthy challenger for a set, but he was eventually choked 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 by Bautista Agut.
Elsewhere, 2009 US Open champion Juan Martín del Potro announced he had undergone a third right knee surgery as his career continued to hang in balance after fracturing it at the Shanghai Masters in October 2018. This marks the 31 years. old’s seventh career surgery through a hopelessly miserable career.