Naomi Osaka’s 2021 Australian Open win—her fourth Grand Slam title—firmly cemented the young tennis star as one of the most accomplished, and impressive, athletes across the globe. But, while Osaka’s carved a name for herself on the tennis court, the 23-year-old has also been using her platform for good, becoming one of the most outspoken activists, both in professional sport and in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, Osaka has become the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in singles tennis and the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam. In 2020, the athlete was named the highest-paid female athlete in the world, surpassing fellow tennis star, Serena Williams.
On top of her performances on the court, Osaka is a powerful voice, and below, we’re rounding up some of her most memorable moments to date.
Withdrawing From The Cincinnati Open To Raise Awareness For The Police Shooting Of Jacob Blake
In August 2020, Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he got into his car, as three of his children watched on. In response to the racial injustice, Osaka chose to withdraw from the 2020 Cincinnati Open in New York to raise awareness, which in turn, led to the tournament postponing all ATP and WTA matches for the day in support of her cause.
Face Masks At The U.S. Open
During the 2020 U.S. Open, Osaka chose to wear seven different face mask for each round of the annual tournament. Each mask, which she started wearing when the tournament began, named a person of colour whose death had been the result of racial injustice in America, specifically, those who had died at the hands of police brutality.
Following her win of the tournament, Osaka said her masks were a way of using her platform to protest the injustices and advocate for Black Lives Matter. “Well, what was the message that you got was more the question,” she told reporters. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
The seven masks Osaka wore included the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castle and Tamir Rice.
Comforting Opponent Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff
Following her win over Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff at the U.S. Open, Osaka was praised for inspiring sportsmanship in the post-match interview after the heartwarming video went viral.
As Gauff wiped tears from her eyes, Osaka asked her to join her in the post-match interview—a tradition with is normally is only fronted by the winning player—and told her directly: “Look you’re amazing, seriously. These people are here for you. I think it’s better than going into the shower and crying. We have to let these people know how you feel.”
Osaka then paid tribute to Gauff’s parents for raising an “incredible player.”
“I remember I used to see you guys training in the same place as us, and for me, like the fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible, and I think you guys are amazing,” she told the crowd. “Coco, you’re amazing.”
Saving A Butterfly Mid-Game
During the Australian Open, Osaka shared a special moment with a butterfly during a match against Ons Jabeur. Landing on her hand ahead of a serve, the tennis star paused to make sure the insect flew away safely. Except, it decided to have a little fun with the athlete instead, landing right on her cheek—a moment captured on camera, that in true Oska style, later went viral.
“Even the butterflies in Australia love @naomiosaka,” the Australian Open’s Twitter account captioned a clip of the moment.
Osaka Supports Women In Sport, Becomes A Co-Owner Of The North Carolina Courage
In 2021, the professional tennis star made the decision to support other female athletes and invested in the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League (the top level of the women’s sport in the U.S.)
Upon showing her commitment to inspiring the next generation of female athletes, Noami said: “The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them. My investment in the North Carolina Courage is far beyond just being a team owner, it’s an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes. I also admire everything the Courage does for diversity and equality in the community, which I greatly look forward to supporting and driving forward.”