Tag Archives: Naomi

Activist, champion: Naomi Osaka named AP Female Athlete of Year

With tennis, like so much of the world, shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Naomi Osaka found herself with time to read and think.

And while she won the U.S. Open for her third Grand Slam title, she also stood out for speaking out about racial injustice and police brutality.

As noteworthy in 2020 for her activism away from the tennis court as her success on it, Osaka was selected by The Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year in results revealed Sunday after a vote by AP member sports editors and AP beat writers.

 WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux on the year that was:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

“It was difficult to be isolated from my family for large parts of the year, but that’s nothing compared to others. It was sad to watch and read the news of people suffering from COVID-19, and the economic and social effect on so many — losing jobs, mental health. It was such a tough year for so many people,” Osaka wrote in an email interview. “And then watching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake [to name just a few] in the summer broke my heart. I am proud of my U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues.”

Osaka collected 18 of 35 first-place votes and a total of 71 points.

WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart was next with nine first-place votes and 60 points, followed by Sarah Fuller, the Vanderbilt soccer player who kicked for the school’s football team, with one first-place vote and 24 points.

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Defending champion, No. 1 seed Naomi Osaka ousted before quarters at U.S. Open

Naomi Osaka’s 10-match U.S. Open winning streak and title defence are done after she was outplayed in the fourth round by Belinda Bencic and lost 7-5, 6-4 Monday.

Osaka has been wearing a black sleeve on her bothersome left knee and was visited by a trainer after getting broken to trail 3-2 in the second set.

“I was so excited to come on the court. The challenge cannot be bigger [than] against Naomi,” said the 13th-seeded Bencic, who will face No. 23 Donna Vekic in the quarter-finals. “I’m really pleased with how I played and how I managed my nerves in the end.”

The result under the closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium on a rainy afternoon means both defending champions and No. 1 seeds are gone before the quarterfinals at the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

WATCH | Bencic stuns Osaka in 4th round at Flushing Meadows:

Belinda Bencic defeats defending U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4 in their round of 16 match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. 1:45

Last year’s men’s champ, Novak Djokovic, stopped playing in his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka on Sunday night because of a painful left shoulder.

Osaka made her breakthrough at Flushing Meadows in 2018, winning her first major championship by beating Serena Williams in a chaotic final that devolved after Williams got into an extended argument with the chair umpire.

Osaka followed that up with a second consecutive Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open in January. That allowed her to become the first tennis player representing Japan to reach No. 1 in the rankings.

Big-match player

Bencic, who is from Switzerland, showed again that she is a big-match player. She improved to 3-0 against Osaka this season and now has a tour-leading nine victories over top-10 opponents in 2019. Bencic also is 4-1 over her career against top-ranked players.

Bencic is 22, just a year older than Osaka, but her progress was slowed in recent years by injuries, including wrist surgery.

Back in 2014, when she was 17, Bencic became the youngest woman into the U.S. Open quarterfifnals since 1997, when Martina Hingis took the title.

It was Hingis’ mother, and then Hingis herself, who coached and mentored Bencic along the way, and she credited them after getting past Osaka.

“I know so much from them, what they’ve taught me,” Bencic said.

Nadal dispatches Cilic

Rafael Nadal easily passed his first test of this year’s U.S. Open and reached the quarter-finals at a ninth consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

With Tiger Woods throwing uppercuts in the stands, Nadal shook off dropping a set and powered past 2014 champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round.

Nadal dropped a set for the first time in this year’s tournament but quickly responded by breaking to lead 3-1 in the third set and was on his way.

Nadal is seeking his fourth title at Flushing Meadows and his 19th Grand Slam trophy overall. Roger Federer holds the men’s record of 20; they only could meet in the final this year. The rivals never have played each other in New York.

The No. 2-seeded Nadal, who retired from his 2018 semifinal at the U.S. Open with a knee injury, will try to get back to the final four by beating No. 20 Diego Schwartzman.

Vekic achieves career best

Vekic, a 23-year-old from Croatia, reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final by saving a match point and edging No. 26 Julia Goerges of Germany 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3.

“I don’t even know how I won this match,” Vekic said.

Well, here’s how: Goerges served for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, coming within one point of ending things right there. Not only couldn’t Goerges convert, but she also double-faulted three times in that game and unraveled from there, wasting a 21-ace effort.

Osaka is more powerful than Bencic and repeatedly used her serve to keep things close, finishing with nine aces.

But it was Bencic’s precision that won the day. She made only 12 unforced errors in the entire match, while producing 29 winners.

Her style is similar to the younger Hingis, who won five Grand Slam singles titles.

“I’m just trying to play it a little bit like chess and anticipate,” Bencic said.

Playing so crisply, so cleanly, she took balls on the rise and snapped them back, rushing Osaka and not giving her time to respond in kind.

Bencic broke for a 6-5 lead with a forehand volley winner followed by a backhand passing winner, then served out that set. In the second, Bencic conjured up another terrific backhand passing shot off a sharp volley by Osaka to set up love-40, and a double-fault then made it 3-2.

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Naomi Watts Is ‘Binging’ 'Game Of Thrones' Before Joining the Prequel! (Exclusive)

Naomi Watts is doing her homework as she prepares to join the prequel to HBO’s smash series, Game of Thrones!

ET’s caught up with the Australian beauty on Monday, just days after news broke that she has a starring role in the highly-anticipated series.

While Watts, 50, declared she is now “beyond” a fan of Game of Thrones, she did confess that she’s late to the party when it comes to getting hooked on the series.

“I am late coming to it, I have to say,” she admitted. “But that’s how I am with lots of things in life. I am binging it right now and studying. It’s very exciting.”

According to a press release from HBO, the prequel is set thousands of years prior to the events of Game of Thrones and “chronicles the world’s descent from the golden Age of Heroes into its darkest hour.”

While Watts couldn’t dish any details on her role, she took a break from her research and binging to attend Monday’s Worldwide Orphan’s 14th Annual Gala in New York City.

The event benefits the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, led by Dr. Jane Aronson, which helps orphans and at-risk children. Watts has attended it for years and Monday’s event was her second time hosting the glitzy gala.

“It’s just really important to see that all children who are suffering are well-supported,” Watts said. “Through [Dr. Aronson’s] way of doing things, through Toy Library, it’s the best way to do things and it’s amazing how strong this foundation is and how many years it’s been going. It’s impressive.”

Watts added that as a mother to two kids (from her previous relationship with Liv Schreiber, which ended in 2016,) causes involving children tug a little harder at her heartstrings.

“Of course it does,” she said. “The minute you have children, nothing prepares you for those fears [for] their health and safety and then, as they grow older, their emotional well-being. Or even when they are little. And, this is what Jane’s work is all about. It’s that if they are emotionally supported they are going to heal faster.”

See more on Watts and Game of Thrones below.

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Naomi Osaka stuns Serena Williams in controversial U.S. Open final

The events and the arguing and the booing that would make this a U.S. Open final unlike any other began when Serena Williams' coach made what she insisted was an innocent thumbs-up, but the chair umpire interpreted as a helpful signal.

It was the second game of the second set Saturday, in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Williams' bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title already was in real trouble because she was being outplayed by first-time major finalist Naomi Osaka.

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos warned Williams for getting coaching during a match, which isn't allowed. She briefly disputed that ruling, saying cheating "is the one thing I've never done, ever." A few games later, Williams received another warning, this time for smashing her racket, and that second violation cost her a point, drawing more arguing. Eventually, Willams called Ramos "a thief," drawing a third violation — and costing her a game.

"I have never cheated in my life!" Williams told Ramos. "You owe me an apology."

Watch the controversial decision from the chair empire:

Williams was given a 3rd code violation in the 2nd set of the U.S. Open Final, resulting in the loss of a game. Naomi Osaka would go on to with the match in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. 3:47

Soon, Osaka was finishing off a 6-2, 6-4 victory that made her the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title. That is not, however, what will be remembered about this match.

Watch highlights from Osaka's championship win:

Osaka shocked Serena Williams in straight sets to win the title but the main story in the match was the 3rd code violation handed to Williams which resulted in an automatic loss of game in the 2nd set. 2:30

Awkward trophy ceremony

With jeers bouncing off the arena's closed roof, both players — the champion, Osaka, and the runner-up, Williams — wiped away tears during a trophy ceremony that was awkward for everyone involved.

Williams whispered something to Osaka and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"I felt, at one point, bad, because I'm crying and she's crying. You know, she just won. I'm not sure if they were happy tears or they were just sad tears, because of the moment. I felt like, `Wow, this isn't how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam.' I was like, `Wow, I definitely don't want her to feel like that,"' said Williams, who missed last year's U.S. Open because her daughter, Olympia, was born during the tournament. "Maybe it was the mom in me that was like, `Listen, we've got to pull ourselves together here.'"

Williams, right, tries to console Osaka following their match. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

This was the only the latest in a series of high-profile conflicts with match officials for Williams at Flushing Meadows. It all dates back to 2004, when an incorrect call during a quarter-final loss to Jennifer Capriati was cited as the main reason for the introduction of replay technology in tennis. Then came Williams' infamous tirade after a foot fault in the 2009 semifinals against Kim Clijsters, and a to-do over a hindrance call in the 2011 final against Sam Stosur.

"It's always something," Williams said.

Osaka is just 20, 16 years younger than Williams — and grew up idolizing the American, even asking her to pose for a selfie together at a tournament just a handful of years ago. Their age difference was the second-widest gap between women's finalists at a Slam in the professional era.

"I know that everyone was cheering for her," Osaka told the crowd, "and I'm sorry it had to end like this."

Osaka refuses to budge

What was most problematic for Williams on the scoreboard was that she was unable to keep up with a version of herself. Osaka, who happens to be coached by Williams' former hitting partner, hit more aces, 6-3. Osaka hit the match's fastest serve, 119 mph. She had fewer errors, 21-14. She saved five of six break points. And she covered the court better than Williams did.

"She made a lot of shots," Williams said. "She was so focused."

Indeed, that was what might have been most impressive. Osaka never let Williams' back-and-forth with Ramos distract her, never wavered from playing terrific tennis. The one time Osaka did get broken, to trail 3-1 in the second set, she broke back immediately, prompting Williams to smash her racket.

Mouratoglou admits trying to signal Williams

That cost her a point, because of the earlier warning for coaching. Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, acknowledged afterward that he did try to signal Williams, but didn't think she had seen him — and added that he thinks every player gets coaching during matches.

"I never had any warning in my career for coaching. Strange to do that in a Grand Slam final," Mouratoglou said. "Second, we all know that all the coaches coach at every match, all year long, from the first of January all the way to the 31st of December. We all know it."


When Ramos called both players over to explain the game penalty, which put Osaka ahead 5-3, Williams began laughing, saying: "Are you kidding me?" Then she asked to speak to tournament referee Brian Earley, who walked onto the court along with a Grand Slam supervisor. Williams told them the whole episode "is not fair," and said: "This has happened to me too many times."

"To lose a game for saying that is not fair," Williams said. "There's a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things and because they are men, that doesn't happen."

It was the second Grand Slam final defeat in a row for Williams, after Wimbledon in July. She's appeared in only seven tournaments this season since returning to the tour after having a baby during last year's U.S. Open.

Williams asked what she'll tell her daughter, Olympia, about what happened Saturday.

"I'll tell her, first of all, if she sees it, that, you know, I stood up for what I believed in. I stood up for what was right," Williams replied. "Sometimes, things in life don't happen the way we want them, but always stay gracious and stay humble. I think that's the lesson we can all learn from this."

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U.S. Open: Kei Nishikori, Naomi Osaka combine to make history

Kei Nishikori rallied to outlast Marin Cilic on Wednesday at the U.S. Open, giving Japan a men's and women's semifinalist at the same Grand Slam for the first time in the professional era.

Nishikori won the rematch of the 2014 final with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 victory in a match that lasted 4 hours, 8 minutes.

In the match before Nishikori's, Naomi Osaka moved into her first Grand Slam semifinal by routing Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 on Wednesday in the U.S. Open quarter-finals.

Only once in the professional era that began in 1968 had Japan had a men's and women's player in the quarter-finals at the same tournament. That was at Wimbledon in 1995, and both Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date lost in that round.

Kei Nishikori defeated Marin Cilic in a five-set marathon in the U.S Open quarter-finals on Wednesday. 1:25

The seventh-seeded Cilic won the 2014 final in straight sets for his only career major title. Nishikori said this week that he was nervous once that match began, but this one was nothing like that day.

Instead, it resembled their 2010 second-round match in Flushing Meadows, when Nishikori rallied to win in five sets in 4:59, the fifth-longest men's singles match by time in U.S. Open history.

Continues strong rebound

The No. 21 seed continued his strong season after returning from a wrist injury that forced him to miss the U.S. Open last year and will play either No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic or unseeded John Millman on Friday.

"I wish I don't go to five sets every time," Nishikori said.

Osaka had it much easier, continuing what's been a largely dominant run through the draw by winning in just 57 minutes, the third time in her five matches she didn't even have to play an hour.

The No. 20 seed moved from Japan to New York at age 3, and her deepest major run is coming at the same tournament she first visited as a child.

Naomi Osaka is the first Japanese woman to make the semifinals a Grand Slam event in 22 years. She defeated Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 on Wednesday. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

"Well, it definitely means a lot for me, and I always thought if I were to win a Grand Slam, the first one I'd want to win is the US Open, because I have grown up here and, like, then my grandparents can come and watch," she said. "I think it would be really cool."

She raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set and then 4-0 in the second against the shaky Tsurenko, who finished with more unforced errors than points in her first major quarter-final.

'Freaking out'

Osaka will face either 14th-seeded Madison Keys or No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro in the first major semifinal appearance for a Japanese woman since Date reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1996.

The 20-year-old said she was nervous, claiming to be "freaking out inside" — though it certainly never showed.

"Just like my entire body was shaking, so I'm really glad I was able to play well today," she said.

She won 59 points to just 28 for the unseeded Ukrainian, who knocked off No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

Osaka had consecutive 50-minute matches earlier in the tournament, including a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing of Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the third round.

It was another hot afternoon Wednesday, with temperatures in the high-80s (30s Celsius) but feeling some 10 degrees hotter with the humidity.​

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