7 masks, 7 wins: Naomi Osaka wins U.S. Open while protesting anti-Black racism
22-year-old secures 3rd Grand Slam win
Two years after her first U.S. Open win, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has another major victory under her belt, and it didn’t come without making a racket.
On Saturday, the 22-year-old beat Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in this year’s U.S. Open final in New York City, earning her third Grand Slam win.
After losing her first set and appearing visibly shaken, Osaka came back to beat Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
She’s the first woman in 25 years to win the event after losing the first set in the final.
But Osaka made headlines for another reason.
For each of her seven games throughout the tournament, Osaka arrived with a different face mask.
Each one listed the name of a Black person who was a recent victim of anti-Black racism or police violence.
Seven games, seven masks
In her first match against Japan’s Misaki Doi on Aug. 31, Naomi Osaka wore a face mask to honour Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her apartment by police in Louisville, Ky. (Kentucky) on the night of March 13. (Image credit: Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)
In her second match, against Italy’s Camila Giorgi on Sept. 2, Osaka wore a mask to honour Elijah McClain, who died in a hospital in Aurora, Colo. (Colorado) in 2019 after being placed in a chokehold by police. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
In her third match, against Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit, Osaka wore a face mask with the name Trayvon Martin on it. He was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla. (Florida) in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch member named George Zimmerman. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
In her fourth match, against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, Osaka wore a mask in honour of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Brunswick, Ga. (Georgia) in February by a white man and his son after they saw Arbery jogging in their neighbourhood. (Image credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)
In her quarter-final match against Shelby Rogers of the U.S. on Sept. 8, Osaka wore a mask with the name George Floyd on it. Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck during an arrest in May. (Image credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images )
When she competed against American Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals on Sept. 10, Osaka wore a mask honouring Philando Castile, who was killed by police in Minnesota during a traffic stop in 2016. (Image credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)
In the final against Victoria Azarenka on Sept. 12, Osaka wore a mask with the name Tamir Rice on it. The Black 12-year-old boy was killed by police in Ohio in 2014. (Image credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)
When asked what the thinking was behind her protest, Osaka said it was all about spreading awareness.
“I'm aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn't know Breonna Taylor's story. Maybe they'll, like, Google it or something,” she said.
The more people are made aware of stories of police violence, Osaka said, the more likely they are to want to learn more.
Osaka is one of many athletes in recent months who have used their platform to protest police violence, including last month when several NBA teams refused to play after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Wisconsin.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Al Bello/Getty Images)
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said that Jacob Blake was killed by police. In fact, he survived the shooting.