Naomi Osaka returned to the fore in women’s tennis on Saturday by coming back to defeat Victoria Azarenka and win her second United States Open.
Osaka’s 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory capped a run of powerful play and political activism in New York. She wore seven different masks with different names for each of her matches to honor Black victims of violence. She walked on court Saturday with a mask bearing the name of Tamir Rice, a 12year old boy shot and killed in Cleveland by a white police officer in 2014.
The point was to make people start talking,” Osaka said at the awards ceremony.
Osaka’s win on Saturday came in radically different conditions than her first title run in New York in 2018.
In that final, she defeated Serena Williams in a tumultuous straight-set match that turned ugly when Williams clashed in Arthur Ashe Stadium with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who called three code-of-conduct violations against Williams.
The crowd, unclear on the rules and upset at the treatment of Williams, booed during the awards ceremony, leaving Osaka in tears shortly after her first Grand Slam singles title.
But Ashe Stadium was nearly empty on Saturday, as it has been throughout this unusual US Open where fans were not permitted because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
What little crowd there was in attendance never became a factor, and though Osaka started very slowly against Azarenka, she gradually found her range and became the first player in 26 years to win a U.S. women’s singles final after losing the first set.
The last player to manage it was Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, who rallied to defeat Steffi Graf in 1994.
Culled from New York Times