Naomi Osaka had said she had seven masks lined up for the US Open - each with a different name - hoping she would be able to reach the final and wear all of them during the tournament this fortnight. On Wednesday, the 22 year old walked on to the Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing a mask with the name of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old African-American massage therapist from Aurora, Colorado who died after being placed in a chokehold by police and being sedated by paramedics.
Naomi Osaka on Elijah McClain & being super proud of Tsitsipas
Later during her press conference with the media, Osaka spoke about how the late McClain and how his story impacted her. "For me, I think when I heard about his story it was very hurtful.
I mean, they're all very hurtful, but just the fact of the character and the way that he was, just to hear stories about him, for me it was very sad. I think this was a bit different because no one can really paint the narrative that he was a bad guy because they had so many stories and so many, like, warmhearted things to say about him.
I don't know. I feel like I still don't think his name is very put out there compared to, like, George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. For me, today was very special in the way that I wanted to represent him very well."
Osaka was also asked if her recent actions have changed the way people perceive her, especially after she played a prominent role in the one-day pause at the Western & Southern Open last week to protests racial injustice and police brutality.
"To be honest, I have no idea because to be completely fair, I rarely see anybody. The only person I see on a regular basis is probably Stefanos because he's sort of like my neighbor. But, yeah, I feel like -- I don't know.
We're all sort of in our separate bubble doing our own things. For me, I don't know, I'm just very focused on the goals that I have right now. I stopped kind of paying attention to everybody, which is probably bad, but..."
One of the players she does seem to have influenced in some way at least is Tsitispas, the World No. 6, who was seen wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt on the US Open grounds on Wednesday. "I'm super proud of him. I'm very glad that his first response when everything started happening was to ask me questions.
I feel like -- I don't know. It's very -- I don't know. For me, I feel like I like to get knowledge. For him to do the same thing, start branching out and asking questions on topics he's not so sure of, is very mature and intelligent.
Yeah, super glad he did that." Naomi Osaka won her second round match at the US Open on Wednesday in straight sets over Italy's Camila Giorgi.