Naomi Osaka Enters Semis of Western & Southern Open; Withdraws in Protest Against Racial Injustice

Osaka joins other athletes in protest against racial injustice after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by the police in Wisconsin on Sunday

Just hours after securing a spot in the semi-finals of Western & Southern Open, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the tournament in protest against racial injustice. The 22-year-old two-times Grand Slam champion joined other athletes in the Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by the police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Osaka wrote on Twitter: "Before I am a athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis."

Starting A Conversation In a Majority White Sport: Osaka

Naomi Osaka, 2019 Australian Open Women's singles
Naomi Osaka YouTube/ Australian Open TV

It is unclear if Osaka will reconsider her decision after organizers suspended play for Thursday as a mark of protest. The semi-finals will now be played on Friday, which is scheduled to be the final day of the event.

Osaka defeated Anett Kontaveit 4-6 6-2 7-5 to reach the semis where she was scheduled to face Belgian Elise Mertens, who needed just over an hour to defeat qualifier Jessica Pegula 6-1 6-3 and reach her first Premier 5 semi-final.

By pulling out of the semi-finals Osaka is giving up the chance to sharpen her game further ahead of the August 31-September 13 US Open Grand Slam but she said it was important for tennis to address the issue of racial injustice. "I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction," said Osaka.

Konta Cruises to Semis

British number one Johanna Konta punched her ticket to the semi-finals with a 6-4 6-3 win over Greece's Maria Sakkari, who entered the match fresh off a win over Serena Williams for one of the biggest wins of her career.

A tight first set ultimately came down to one break of serve, which Konta converted in the third game. Konta broke two more times in the second, including in the final game where she secured the win after a Sakkari double fault.

Up next for Konta, who is rounding into form with each match, is a clash with former world number one Victoria Azarenka, a 7-6 6-2 winner over Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. The tournament, the final tune-up before the US Open, is being played at Flushing Meadows in New York this year instead of Cincinnati due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(With inputs from agencies)