WASHINGTON, August 28, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)
Throughout Thursday morning, accolades came pouring in via social media for Naomi Osaka, following her bold stand Wednesday night to sit out playing her Western & Southern Open semifinal round match to protest racial injustice and social inequality in the aftermath of the latest incident of police brutality against a Black American in the United States.
Say it louder! Proud of you 👏🏾♥️ https://t.co/Mpx3fvBR1Y
— sloanestephens (@SloaneStephens) August 27, 2020
Osaka’s actions caused the U.S. Tennis Association, ATP Tour and WTA to issue a joint statement late Wednesday calling off all Thursday matches in the tournament which has been relocated this week to New York from its regular home in Mason, Ohio.
“As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States,” they said. “The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28.”
Osaka’s decision to not play her Thursday semifinal against 14th seed Elise Mertens was the latest in a slew of Wednesday cancellations throughout the sports world – especially in the United States – which included NBA basketball playoff games, WNBA basketball regular seasons games and several Major League Baseball games, all in response to the shooting in Kenosha, Wis, of Jacob Blake, a Black male, by a white police officer last weekend. Many sports contests in the United States were called off, again, on Thursday.
By Thursday afternoon, the fourth seed Osaka announced she would compete in the semifinals on Friday against Mertens. Their match is first on Grandstand at 11 a.m. Eastern Time (4 p.m. London, 5 p.m. Central European) with the winner to advance to Saturday’s final against the winner of the other semifinal between eighth seed Johanna Konta and 59th-ranked Victoria Azarenka.
“As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday in support of racial injustice and continued police violence. I was (and am ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent,” Osaka said in a statement first reported by The Guardian of London tennis writer Tumaini Carayol. “However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the Tournament for their support.”
A brave & impactful move by @naomiosaka, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world.
She was to play in the semis tomorrow.
Athletes using platforms for good means so much.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 27, 2020
Am beyond proud of @naomiosaka tonight & I’m very proud of my sport 🎾 I’m also really tired of the racial injustice in this world. I stand with my family of black & brown sisters & brothers in this country 🇺🇸 especially the 1s in my sport. #BLM ✊🏼✊🏾✊🏿 #racialinjustice #Equality
— Rennae Stubbs (@rennaestubbs) August 27, 2020
— Alize Cornet (@alizecornet) August 27, 2020
Around the Western & Southern Open
Both women’s semifinals are scheduled for the same time, at 11 a.m. Osaka and Mertens will play on the Grandstand court while Konta and Azarenka are the opening match on Court 10. The men’s semifinals, matching No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas versus No. 30 Milos Raonic followed by No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic against No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. inside Louis Armstrong Stadium. The semifinal round of men’s and women’s doubles will also be held on Friday. Both singles and doubles finals are now scheduled for Saturday.