Naomi Osaka Says U.S. Open Masks with Names of Victims of Racial Injustice Were 'Motivator' to Win

"I was just thinking that I had this opportunity to raise awareness," Naomi Osaka tells Vogue in the magazine's January cover story

Naomi Osaka for vogue
Naomi Osaka. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/ Vogue

Using her platform to highlight issues that matter to her helped Naomi Osaka secure a victory at the 2020 U.S. Open, she says in Vogue's January 2021 cover story.

The tennis champion — who was photographed in a Louis Vuitton dress by Annie Leibovitz for the cover image — opened up about choosing to wear seven masks with the names of victims of racial injustice ahead of her matches at the Flushing, New York, tournament earlier this year.

Among those she highlighted were Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Trayvon Martin.

"I was just thinking that I had this opportunity to raise awareness," Osaka told Vogue. "Tennis is watched all around the world, so people who might not know these names can Google them and learn their stories."

Continued Osaka, "That was a big motivator for me, and I think it helped me win the tournament."

Osaka defeated Victoria Azarenka to win the 2020 U.S. Open Women's Singles final in September.

The athlete, who is Japanese-Haitian-American, also chatted about her heritage in the interview. Though she "grew up with a little bit more Japanese heritage and culture," Osaka said she identifies as Black.

"I'm Black, and I live in America, and I personally didn't think it was too far-fetched when I started talking about things that were happening here," she told Vogue about her social justice activism.

Naomi Osaka for vogue
Naomi Osaka. Annie Leibovitz/ Vogue

In addition to her on-court support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Osaka also joined in-person protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

"I don't think it matters if you're shy or not, or if you're introverted or extroverted. You're just there in the moment," she explained to the magazine. "When you see it in real life — so many cameras filming everyone, police with guns outside the city hall, the parents of other victims telling their stories — it kind of hits you differently."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka at the 2020 U.S. Open. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In the interview, Osaka spoke about her frequent opponent Serena Williams, who she defeated to win the 2018 U.S. Open women's singles final.

Calling Williams "more aggressive" as a player, Osaka said that there's much the tennis veteran is "better at."

Naomi Osaka for vogue
Naomi Osaka. Annie Leibovitz/ Vogue

"Honestly, I'm kind of scared of her," said Osaka. "Not scared scared but — I'm intimidated, and I get very shy when she's like 10 feet away from me."

Vogue's January 2021 issue is available on newsstands on December 22nd.

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