7 Matches. 7 Masks. 7 Names.
Naomi Osaka made an immense impact on the tennis world at the 2020 U.S. Open by fighting for each point on the court, and for racial injustices off the court. Already a two-time major champion facing intense media scrutiny in the first major tournament returning from the COVID-19 halted tour, Osaka took it upon herself to bring awareness on the biggest stage.
Of course, this wasn’t a first time thing for Osaka. She has long been an athlete and a voice that was not confined to traditional appearances and talking points. Born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, Osaka’s journey in professional tennis looked much different than her counterparts.
“I’ve never really fit into one description—but people are so fast to give me a label,” Osaka wrote in Esquire Magazine. “ Is she Japanese? American? Haitian? Black? Asian? Well, I’m all of these things together at the same time.”
What makes Osaka unique goes far beyond her racial and ethnic background; she is a self-proclaimed introvert and often comes off as reserved and shy, if not socially awkward. So how did she go from an introvert to become such a strong athlete-activist? The pandemic this spring made Osaka deal with the challenge head on.
“For me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep, and most of the regret is that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking,” Osaka said. “There’s a lot of times where I see myself in situations where I could have put my input in, but instead I’ve held my tongue and things kept moving in a way that I didn’t really enjoy.”