Naomi Osaka Took a Hiatus from Tennis But Wins Off the Court

By Zac Cornell

On July 10th Naomi Osaka attended the 2021 ESPYS, receiving the award for Best Female athlete of the year. This was the first ESPYS that Osaka has attended and she appeared on stage, despite acknowledging that she was nervous, to thank ESPN, supporters, and her fans. She also referenced that “this year has been really tough for a lot of us,” and finished with “I really love you guys.”

Osaka, the highest paid female athlete in the world, had to withdraw from the French Open last month after confrontations with tournament officials about her refusal to participate in media interviews. Osaka later explained the reason for her withdrawal on Instagram, saying it was due to anxiety and bouts of depression that began after the 2018 US Open where she defeated Serena Williams. She said, “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. ” 

Osaka also skipped Wimbledon this year, however her tennis moratorium hasn’t stopped her off-the-court success. The 23-year-old is featured on the cover of Vogue Japan’s August issue and Nike released her summer drop the first week of July. 

Then on July 12th, Osaka announced the release of her Barbie Role Model Naomi Osaka doll. According to Osaka, the doll is wearing a replica of her outfit from the 2020 Australian Open. Osaka tweeted the announcement about her new Barbie doll to her fans saying, “I hope every child is reminded that they can be and do anything.” 

Osaka will return to the court to play in her first Olympics in Tokyo this summer representing Japan. Osaka was born in Japan but was raised in the U.S. and was a dual citizen. She was required under Japan’s Nationality Law to relinquish her U.S. citizenship before she turned 22 in order to represent Japan at the Olympics. Osaka will not have to speak to the press at the Olympics as there is no press mandate for athletes. The women’s singles tennis tournament is scheduled to begin on Saturday, July 24th.

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