Naomi Osaka And Her Masks: ‘Just Spreading Awareness’

WASHINGTON, September 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

When Naomi Osaka walked out on Arthur Ashe Stadium following her introduction, she used this moment during her Opening Night first-round match Monday to send a message – and it’s one she plans to repeat round by round, as long as she remains in the US Open.

The World No. 10 Osaka wore a simple black mask emblazoned with the name BREONNA TAYLOR, a Black woman who was shot to death by police in March in Louisville.

According to Osaka, 22, she arrived for the US Open with seven masks – one for each of the seven rounds it takes to win the championship – and each bears the name of a victim of violence. Osaka won the 2018 US Open title and is also the 2019 Australian Open champion. She also happens to be the richest female professional athlete in the world, according to Forbes. So, when Osaka does something, such as promote racial injustice awareness through the masks she’s wearing as health and safety protocol, it garners major attention.

Osaka said, “I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Beonna Taylor’s story.” After the No. 4 seed defeated Misaki Doi, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, she added: “Maybe they’ll Google it or something. For me, [it’s] just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it. 

“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names.

“Hopefully, I’ll get to the finals and you can see all of them.”

More Naomi: “A lot of people ask me if I feel more stressed out ever since I started speaking out more. To be honest, not really. At this point, like, if you don’t like me, it is what it is.”

Last week, Osaka spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter and protested with other American professional athletes about racial injustice and social inequality. She wrote:

“Before I am a athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. 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.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas and his special relationship with his towel

After men’s fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Albert Ramos-Viñolas on Monday, he spent his entire virtual press conference discussing his special relationship with his towel.

“It has huge importance, the towel. I use it very often. It gives me time to think, gives me time to refresh myself and think about my tactics. …

“I have sort of like a history with the towel. I used to have a towel when I was three, four years old and I would always carry it around. It was like my toy, basically (smiling).

“The towel resembles something special in my life. It does provide us some sort of amount of comfort. And also, yeah, it’s not very comfortable playing all sweaty and having sweat drip from your face and get to your eyes.

“Having it there is very important for us.”

Interviewer: “So the towel is kind of a teacher for you?”

Tsitsipas: “It is.”

More Tsitsipas: “Tennis can get very frustrating, and nerves get in and it’s not always easy to keep your cool. But at the same time, you have to have the human side where you’ve got to be more intimate and show more respect, show better values as a person towards another person.”

What they’re saying

• “I know pressure is a privilege. Pressure is part of what we do. I try to embrace it. I don’t have an issue with pressure because I’m used to it.”Novak Djokovic

More Djokovic: “Do I want to keep the streak going? Of course, I do. Am I thinking about it as priority No. 1 every single day? No. It’s there and, of course, it’s an additional motivation for me. It actually fuels me to play even stronger, play even better, bring the right intensity every match.” Djokovic improved to 24-0 on the year with his first-round victory on Monday.

“Misha was definitely one of the players I looked up to when I was really young. He was one of the first players I actually had a picture with. It’s pretty crazy to be working with him, first of all, but just to get to know him as a person and as a coach. I feel like he’s helped my game so much. He’s definitely made me a smarter player.” – Denis Shapovalov on his coach, former ATP star Mikhail Youzhny.

“This summer, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can overcome a lot of things on and off the court. I still hope I can be that way and use my platform in that way.” – Coco Gauff

More Coco: “I still have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.”

What they’re podcasting

The Tennis Podcast remembers Arthur Ashe. “Our Tennis Podcast on his career, life, death, impact and legacy. It was a privilege to learn about this special man from those that knew him.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Delpo gets a visit from Stan the Man …

Monica Puig / You may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit.