A few years ago, a quiet, mostly unassuming teenager took on the greatest face of tennis, and she beat her. In her post match press conference Naomi Osaka played deference to her idol Serena Williams. She cried and she won our hearts. And because they are both women who have been taught the grace of both victory and defeat they acknowledged each others’ greatness instead of their own.
We, (women), remember where we were when we witnessed that transference of power.
What we couldn’t have expected after that tournament was what Naomi Osaka would turn into. Not even a full 3 years after defeating her idol she would show up to the US Open as a different woman entirely. With no Serena last September, and a summer of unprecedented circumstances that saw a social justice movement unlike one this country has seen in well over 50 years, the new face of women’s tennis took a startling step into her newfound lime light.
Late summer in Queens, and New York City, is an indescribably special feeling. The warm beautiful days and cool nights spent at Citi Field, (and even in the Bronx), lull you into thinking that summer might not actually end, even when you start to see the turn of the leaves. But nothing compares to the air surrounding Arthur Ashe stadium. It was deep in the heart of Queens that Naomi Osaka began her transformation from a quiet caterpillar to a social justice butterfly.
The Coccoon Effect
In her first match in Flushing she wore a mask highlighting the name of a victim of police brutality. She then stated after her win that she had enough to last her throughout the entire tournament and that she was hopeful that she’d make it far enough to wear them all.
Spoiler alert: She did.
Late Thursday or early Friday morning depending on how you look at it, during her third round Australian Open match against Ons Jabeur, a butterfly landed on Naomi shortly before her 2 set victory. While initially flustered she moved it into safety with grace and calm. Was it a coincidence? I think not.
Since winning last years U.S. Open Naomi has been nothing short of vocal about her support of the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s also become an owner in the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage in a sort of check-mate move to her idol Serena’s ownership in the formation of Angel City FC.
What we have witnessed over the last 3 years is a transformation unlike any other. Much like her sport Naomi has become the face of quiet but impactful power and we are becoming better people and better sports fans because of it.
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