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“I’m Just Here To, Hopefully, Beat People”: Naomi Osaka Sends Message To Tennis Stars

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After some upsets elsewhere, Osaka has asserted herself as the clear favorite in the top half of the United States Open women’s singles draw.

 

Osaka, the 2018 champion from Japan, reasserted herself as the favorite in the top half of the women’s singles draw with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi of Italy in an hour and 10 minutes on Wednesday night.

The fourth-seeded Osaka advanced on a day in which many of the other top seeds her half of the draw stumbled, with No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova and No. 13 Alison Riske all losing.

After Pliskova’s exit, Osaka is the only player in the top 10 of the WTA singles rankings remaining in the top half of the draw; six top-10 players, including world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 Simona Halep, did not enter this year’s tournament.

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Osaka’s left leg was heavily taped during her match, but she appeared unburdened despite admitting that the hamstring injury that forced her out of Saturday’s Western & Southern Open final was not healing as rapidly as she hoped. “I feel like I want to be the player that you can’t tell I’m in pain,” Osaka said in a post-match interview on ESPN.

Osaka’s steadiness through physical pain is complemented by her steadfastness highlighting police violence against Black people.

She has found her voice in that campaign in recent months, which led her to provoke a one-day stoppage in the Western & Southern Open last week, simultaneously drawing praise from many around the sport and stunning several other players remaining in the tournament.

Naomi Osaka

“I don’t feel like I’m being brave; I just feel like I’m doing what I should be doing,” Osaka said last week. “So honestly, when people say ‘courageous’ or anything, I don’t really resonate that well with it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing in this moment.”

Osaka said she didn’t think her prominence came with pressure.

“A lot of people ask me if I feel more stressed out ever since I started speaking out more; to be honest, not really,” Osaka said Monday. “At this point, like, if you don’t like me, it is what it is. You know what I mean? I’m kind of here for pride.

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I don’t have to be here. So for me, I’m just here to, hopefully, beat people.”