Japan's Naomi Osaka
In a file photo, Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates her victory against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Earlier this month, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, a four-time grand slam champion, played her first tennis match in four months.

Click start to play today’s Crossword, you might spot her in one of the clues.

Osaka took a break from tennis after a defeat to Canadian tennis player Leylah Fernandez at the US Open last year. She also withdrew from the French Open and chose not to participate at Wimbledon, citing mental health issues.

When Osaka put her foot down and took a step back to prioritise her health, her unprecedented move was seen as brave, if a little controversial. She unwittingly became one of the faces at the forefront of mental health advocacy, and created conversations about the issue all around the world. The candid 25-year-old wrote an opinion piece for US-based Time magazine, stating: “I do hope that people can… understand it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it.”

Now, the 24-year-old is back at the Australian Open as the reigning women’s champion, and couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament – she won her opening match. Here are three other ways in which Osaka took a stand and never looked back:

1. She gave up her citizenship

Born in Japan, Osaka moved to the US at the age of three. Although she possessed dual citizenship, since Japanese law required her to select only one at the age of 22, she decided to give up her American citizenship. Her decision to play for Japan was based partially on her father (her first coach), who believed that the Japan Tennis Association would provide her a great deal more support than their US counterpart.

2. She is a strong advocate for racial justice

When news about police brutality against black people in the US came to light and triggered the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Osaka withdrew from the 2020 Cincinnati Open to raise awareness for Jacob Blake, a black man who was shot seven times by the police. She also flew to Minneapolis, US, to protest the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. And in the 2020 US Open, she wore different masks with the names of the victims of police brutality, to draw attention to the issue.

3. She’s an entrepreneur

In July 2020, Osaka used her star power outside the tennis court. She announced that she and her sister Mari had designed a limited-edition mask, with all proceeds benefiting United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Japan’s pandemic relief efforts. Earlier in the same year, she had debuted her first collection, which was designed in collaboration with Japanese fashion house ADEAM, at New York Fashion Week.

Are you a fan of Osaka? Play today’s Crossword and tell us at games@gulfnews.com.