Naomi Osaka has vowed to continue highlighting issues of racial injustice after reaching the second round of the US Open on Monday.
Osaka, who initially pulled out of her semi-final at last week’s Western & Southern Open in solidarity with protesters, wore a face-mask onto the court bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by police in Louisville in March.
Osaka said: “Actually I have seven (masks), and it’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names.
“So hopefully I will get to the finals and you can see all of them.”
“I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.
“A lot of people ask me if I feel more stressed out ever since I started speaking out more. To be honest, not really. 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. I don’t have to be here
“I just feel like we’re heading towards a great direction, and there’s a lot of players that are supporting it. I think there are a lot of voices that are contributing towards a lot of things, so it’s definitely very nice to see.”
Osaka had reversed her decision to withdraw from last week’s tournament after discussions with organisers, only to subsequently pull out ahead of the final against Victoria Azarenka due to a hamstring injury.
And that affliction appeared evident in the way she laboured for long periods, requiring just over two hours to secure victory over an opponent who had won just one match in seven previous appearances in the US Open main draw.
“It was very difficult and I kind of expected it because I know she’s a tough opponent,” added Osaka. “I knew there was a chance it would get really long and I’ll just have to see how I feel tomorrow.”