Two years after her first win at the US Open, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has another major victory under her belt, and it hasn’t come without a racquet.
On Saturday, the 22-year-old defeated Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in this year’s US Open final in New York City, claiming her third Grand Slam victory.
After losing her first set and looking visibly shaken, Osaka came back to beat Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
She is the first woman in 25 years to win the event after losing the first set in the final.
But Osaka grabbed the headlines for another reason.
For each of her seven games throughout the tournament, Osaka came in with a different face mask.
Each lists the name of a black person who has recently been the victim of anti-black racism or police violence.Seven games, seven masks
In her first game against Japan’s Misaki Doi on August 31, Naomi Osaka wore a face mask in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead in her apartment by police in Louisville, Ky. (Kentucky) on the night of March 13. (Image credit: Frank Franklin II / The Associated Press)
In her second match, against Italy’s Camila Giorgi on September 2, Osaka wore a mask in honor of Elijah McClain, who died in a hospital in Aurora, Colorado (Colorado) in 2019 after being placed in a suffocation by the police. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
In his third game, against Estonia Anett Kontaveit, Osaka wore a mask with the name Trayvon Martin on it. He was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida (Florida) in 2012 by a member of the Neighborhood Watch named George Zimmerman. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
In his fourth match, against Ukraine Marta Kostyuk, Osaka wore a mask in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Brunswick, Georgia (Georgia) in February by a white man and his son after seeing Arbery run around their neighborhood. (Image credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)
In their quarterfinal match against Shelby Rogers of the United States on September 8, Osaka wore a mask bearing George Floyd’s name. Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis policeman who knelt on his neck during an arrest in May. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
When she faced American Jennifer Brady in the semifinals on September 10, Osaka wore a mask honoring Philando Castile, who was killed by police in Minnesota during a traffic stop in 2016 (Image credit: Al Bello / Getty Images)
In the final against Victoria Azarenka on September 12, Osaka wore a mask bearing the name Tamir Rice. The 12-year-old black boy was killed by police in Ohio in 2014 (Image credit: Al Bello / Getty Images)
When asked what the thinking behind his demonstration was, Osaka replied that it was about raising public awareness.
“I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone who doesn’t know the story of Breonna Taylor. Maybe they’ll like Google or something, ”she says.
The more people know about stories of police violence, Osaka said, the more likely they are to want to know more.
Osaka is one of many athletes in recent months who have used their platform to protest police violence, including last month when several NBA teams refused to play after Jacob Blake was killed by police in the Wisconsin.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Al Bello / Getty Images)