Tennis

Naomi Osaka agrees to play semifinal after originally withdrawing as show of protest

Naomi Osaka has decided to play her semifinal at the Western & Southern Open in New York after previously saying she would withdraw from the match to protest against racial injustice, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

2-time Grand Slam champ says tournament pause brings attention to racial injustice

Japan's Naomi Osaka said Thursday she will play her semifinal at the Western & Southern Open after saying Wednesday she wouldn't to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (Associated Press)

Naomi Osaka will play in the Western & Southern Open semifinals, after all.

A day after saying she would withdraw from the hard-court event to protest the "continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police" — prompting the tournament to call off all of Thursday's matches — the two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player changed course.

Her agent confirmed that Osaka will face No. 14 Elise Mertens when play resumes at the tournament Friday with the semifinals. The finals were shifted from Friday to Saturday.

"As you know, I pulled out of the tournament [Wednesday] in support of racial injustice and continued police violence. I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent," Osaka said.

"However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the tournament for their support."

Osaka joined similar protests by athletes in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball following the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Raonic says tours need to take action

Also Wednesday, Canada's Milos Raonic urged the sport to come together quickly and develop next steps to demand societal change following his quarter-final win over Serbia's Filip Krajinovic.

Raonic is scheduled to play in the semifinals against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. He feels the men's and women's tours need to determine what actions to take in a hurry following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last weekend in Wisconsin.

"I think it's not about the three guys that are left in this tournament, I think it's about everybody being on the same page," Raonic said. "If four guys step up tomorrow but everything continues as normal on Monday when the U.S. Open starts, have we taken that next small step ...?"

"I think to really make a difference, it has to be a banding together of athletes."

With files from The Canadian Press

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