Naomi Osaka is one of the players who brings a breath of fresh air to women’s tennis. Because she’s young, she’s talented, she’s charismatic, and she also leaves a very clear message when it comes to social injustice.
At Flushing Meadows, the Japanese lifted her third Grand Slam trophy and her second at the US Open. Still undefeated in the finals of large tournaments, she is the only active player who can reach the record held by Mónica Seles in the Open Era, winning the first six definitions of this kind of tournaments that she played.
In turn, with the trophy raised at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the next number 3 in the world became the fourth active player with the most Grand Slam trophies, tied with Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
But the Osaka combo is not only a mixture of talent and numbers that, at 22 years old, deposit her in the present and future at the top of the tennis firmament.
Far from staying there, the Japanese woman was very active both in her press conferences and in the entry of her parties regarding social inequality and the black lives matter movement. Osaka wore the names of different people from the community on their masks to make their cases more visible. The seven names were: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Philando, and Castile Tamir Rice.
With his title at the US Open, Osaka also dodged the easy criticism of “you have to focus more on tennis.” It was three weeks in which both she and her rival, Victoria Azarenka, proved to be the two best players in New York. What could not be in the Premier 5 of Cincinnati (also played in Flushing Meadows) ended up being in the definition of the most important tournament of the two.
Among so many moments of change and uncertainty, the Japanese shows that she is the figure that women’s tennis needed to return to the center of the scene. With an entire career ahead of her, the US Open champion climbed six positions and jumped from 9th to 3rd place in the WTA rankings, but her image and what she stands for transcend much more.