Osaka has unique reach in that regard — inarguably a celebrity in the United States, where she spent most of her childhood and currently lives, she plays for Japan and captures an international audience as well.
After her 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final Saturday, reporter Tom Rinaldi asked in Osaka’s on-court interview after the match about the message behind her masks.
This time, she turned the question around.
“Well, ‘What was the message that you got?’ is more the question,” Osaka said to Rinaldi, who is White. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking.
“For me, I’ve been inside of the bubble, so I’m not really sure what’s really going on in the outside world. All I can tell is what’s going on on social media. For me, I feel like the more retweets it gets — that’s so lame — but the more people talk about it.”
Osaka’s masks have capped a summer of activism for the 22-year-old, who attended protests of police violence in Minneapolis and Los Angeles and last month joined an NBA-player led protest by refusing to play her semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open. The entire tournament paused for a day instead, a symbol of her power in a sport that rarely engages with social issues on a widespread level.
Osaka’s influence only grew Saturday after she won her third Grand Slam title. She is the youngest three-time major winner since Maria Sharapova captured her third crown in 2008.
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