Osaka out of semis in protest; W&S pauses play


Naomi Osaka, the two-time major tennis champion, announced that she would not play in Thursday’s Western & Southern Open semifinal match in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Several hours later, the tournament announced that it was pausing play for a day.

“As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States,” a statement from the USTA, ATP and WTA said. “The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28.”

Osaka had made her announcement on social media, saying there are more important matters that need attention.

“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman,” she wrote in a post on Wednesday night. “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. 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.”

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday. Blake was shot as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media.

“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” she wrote in the post. “I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?”

Several of her peers, including Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff, responded to her post with praise.

Osaka, who represents Japan but grew up in the United States and is based in Los Angeles, was slated to play Elise Mertens in the semifinal match after beating Anett Kontaveit in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. She is next scheduled to play in the US Open, which begins Monday.

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