Tennis legend Billie Jean King says she is proud of the way Naomi Osaka has stood up over the past week and used her voice to raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality at the Western & Southern Open, comparing her to the likes of Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith and the Original 9 of women’s tennis.
Osaka's decision to not play her semi-final on Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in New York led to the tournament taking a one-day pause. The former World No. 1 did play her semi-final match on Friday and won but sustained a hamstring injury which forced her to give Victoria Azarenka a walkover in Saturday's final.
Billie Jean King loves what Naomi Osaka and her generation of athletes are doing today
Speaking to Reuters, Billie Jean King, who was part of the Original 9 that founded the WTA Tour, says, “It has been more than 50 years since athletes like Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith and the Original 9 of women’s tennis all stood up and used their sport, their voices and their actions to change humanity.
The baton has been passed and Naomi has accepted it with open arms and that shows compassion, strength and leadership”. “Her actions this week were a catalyst for change. She is putting people first, being authentic, and she is leading.
I love what Naomi and her generation of athletes are doing today”. King is considered to be one of the most influential figures in tennis history - she won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles in her career and was a driving force as part of the Original 9 that formed the WTA Tour in 1973.
She has been a pioneer for equality and social justice over the years. The 22 year old Osaka is still scheduled to play the US Open which begins on Monday and is one of the favourites for the title in New York. She is a former winner at the US Open - having beaten Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final - and is seeded No.
4 this year. She will meet fellow Japanese Misaki Doi in the first round and is scheduled to play on Monday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Naomi Osaka, who was recently named the highest earning female athlete in sports by Forbes magazine, added that she hopes the extra time will help her recover and that she will be ready for her first round match at Flushing Meadows.