Naomi Osaka's 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka on Saturday secured her US Open 2020 title. With 3 Grand Slam triumphs in her belt, the 22-year-old is all set to lead tennis. Following her win, Osaka is now third in the latest WTA Rankings announced on Monday. While Japan celebrates Osaka's second US Open title, former first lady Michelle Obama took to praise the Osaka-born athlete on Twitter.
"So proud of you," Michelle Obama wrote, tagging Osaka by quoting the latter's tweet. Osaka was tweeting about her US Open 2020 title, calling it "crazy" in her tweet. While the two-time US Open winner dominated on the court, her off-court activism and vocal support of the Black Lives Matter movement has won hearts. While the people debated over sports proving as a distraction over the social justice movement and protests, Osaka used it as a motivation to clinch her second US Open title.
Last month, Osaka made headlines after withdrawing from the Western & Southern Open. The now-third-seeded tennis star withdrew before semifinal with Elise Mertens as a stand against racial injustice and police brutality. “I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” Naomi Osaka wrote in her tweet. Her decision was triggered by Jacob Blake's shooting in Wisconsin, who was shot by police officers in broad daylight while his children waited in the car for him.
What started with her exit from the Western & Southern Open, Naomi Osaka continued taking a stand during the US Open. She wore masks with victims names printed on them, wearing seven different names for seven different games. She started with a Breonna Taylor mask, followed by Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice – who were all police brutality victims.
People and fans all over the world appreciated her efforts, as it is easy to boycott during the first round, but not easy to withdraw before a semi-final. "She has shown more and more confidence about speaking up," said Billie Jean King – a tennis legend and social justice advocate. He added that while Osaka might appear quiet and calm, she is "internally" on fire and always thinking about things.
However, there have been reports about sponsors being wary of her stand for the BLM movement. Osaka, who was born in Japan, moved to the USA and was raised there. While she is expected to represent Japan during the Tokyo Olympics next year, many people are reportedly not on board with her activism.
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While Osaka is determined to make a statement, Michelle Obama is a long-time advocate of social justice and has been vocal about her support for the BLM movement triggered after George Floyd's tragic death in May. Both Michelle and Barack Obama have since then spoken up about the systemic racism in the USA, advocating the support of the BLM movement beyond trending hashtags on Twitter. During her Dear Class of 2020 address, Michelle Obama spoke about Floyd's brutal murder and how the sea of protests are a "direct result of decades of unaddressed, prejudice and inequality."