New York: Naomi Osaka brought seven facemasks to the US Open to highlight racial injustice and on the basis of her impressive showing the quarter-finals on Tuesday, Flushing Meadows looks destined to see them all.
Before the 6-3, 6-4 victory over Shelby Rogers, the former champion unveiled the fifth mask emblazoned with the name of George Floyd, the Black American who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
Two more remain in Osaka’s kit bag for the semi-final against American Jenny Brady and potentially her second US Open final at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday.
“I just have a feeling,” she told the media, explaining how she decided which mask to wear.
“I feel like I’m a vessel in order to spread awareness.” The highlighting of the issue has taken a little of the focus away from what has been a highly impressive tournament for the fourth seed as she has made her way to her third Grand Slam semi-final.
On Tuesday, she made just eight unforced errors across two sets against a player with some big shots who she had never beaten before.
“She played pretty flawless,” said Rogers. “I think she can go a couple more if she wants.
“She’s more confident in who she is, what her game is, how to play.” Osaka, who at 22 already has two Grand Slam titles after winning the 2018 U.S. Open and backing up at the 2019 Australian Open, said she had spent a lot of time during the coronavirus shutdown thinking about how she wanted to approach her tennis.
“Honestly, the whole of 2019 after I won Australia, I just put too much pressure on myself, I wasn’t enjoying it,” Osaka said.
“When I (lost) against Coco (Gauff) in Australia this year, I was just so stressed out. So I just thought to myself, I’m just going to take quarantine to mentally evaluate what I want to do when I come back.
“When you come out on Ashe, there’s a Billy Jean King quote ‘pressure is a privilege’, and I feel it’s unbelievably true.”
Pablo Carreno Busta outlasted an erratic Denis Shapovalov 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(4) 0-6 6-3 in a seesaw battle lasting over four hours to advance to his second US Open semi-final.
The 29-year-old Spaniard, the oldest of the men’s quarter-finalists at Flushing Meadows, looked to be heading for his first loss on hardcourts to his Canadian opponent after Shapovalov served him a bagel in the fourth set.
However, after getting some treatment to his lower back, 2017 semi-finalist Carreno Busta fought back gamely to seal the deciding set in a match that went past 1 am in New York.
After spending just an hour on court in his previous round when world number one Novak Djokovic was disqualified, Carreno Busta was understandably drained.
“I’m destroyed, but you know I’m very, very happy,” he said in his on-court interview. “After this fight, this battle, it’s hard to say, but it is incredible to be back in the semi-finals again.”
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP x20) bt Denis Shapovalov (CAN x12) 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 0-6, 6-3
Alexander Zverev (GER x5) bt Borna Coric (CRO x27) 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/1), 6-3
Jennifer Brady (USA x28) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ x23) 6-3, 6-2
Naomi Osaka (JPN x4) bt Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-3, 6-4.