Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Osaka declines to play; W&S matches postponed

After Naomi Osaka said today that she would not play Thursday in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, tournament officials postponed all matches until Friday.

"As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States," the USTA, ATP and WTA said in a statement. "The USTA, ATP Tour and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, August 27. Play will resume on Friday, August 28."

It's unclear if Osaka will play Friday. 

All three NBA playoff games and three major-league baseball games today also were postponed in the aftermath of the shooting. 

Osaka, 22, was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother and grew up in Florida. Although based in Los Angeles, the two-time Grand Slam singles champion plays for Japan. 

"Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman," she tweeted tonight. "And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction."

Blake, a 29-year-old African-American man, was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. He is in intensive care in a Milwaukee hospital and paralyzed from the waist down, his father, Jacob Sr., told CNN. Jacob Sr. said he wasn't sure if the condition is permanent.

"Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach," Osaka wrote. "I'm exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I'm extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough?"

Earlier today, the fourth-seeded Osaka outlasted eighth-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Osaka is scheduled to play 14th-seeded Elise Mertens, a Belgian who dismissed qualifier Jessica Pegula, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., 6-1, 6-3 in 64 minutes.

Osaka and Mertens, 24, have split two career matches. Osaka won the last meeting 6-4, 6-1 in the Osaka semifinals en route to the title last September. 

Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford at 16 in 2014, stunning 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur. 

Mertens reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018. The tournament replaced the Bank of the West Classic.

In Friday's other women's semifinal, eighth-seeded Johanna Konta of Great Britain will play unseeded Victoria Azarenka, the 2013 champion in the tournament's traditional home of Cincinnati. 

Konta beat 13th-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-3, and Azarenka downed unseeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 7-6 (9), 6-2. Neither Konta, who received a first-round bye, nor Azarenka has lost a set in the tournament.

Azarenka, a 31-year-old mother, is ranked No. 59 after spending most of 2012 at No. 1. Entering the Western & Southern Open, she was 0-3 since last year's tournament.

Azarenka and Konta won the Bank of the West Classic in 2010 and 2016, respectively.

In Friday's men's semifinals, top-ranked Novak Djokovic will face eighth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, and fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will take on unseeded Milos Raonic of Canada.

Neither Djokovic nor Tsitsipas has lost a set in three matches each this week.

Djokovic improved to 21-0 this year with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany in 62 minutes. Bautista Agut eliminated Russia's Daniil Medvedev, the third seed and defending champion, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Djokovic, 33, is 8-3 against Bautista Agut, 32. Djokovic won the last meeting 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in last year's Wimbledon semifinals, but Bautista Agut has won the last three encounters on hardcourts.

Tsitsipas beat unseeded Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) American, 5-6 retired (knee). Raonic saved a match point in a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 victory over unseeded Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. 

Krajinovic routed second-seeded Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-1 in 61 minutes in the second round.

Raonic defeated the Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the third round of the Australian Open in January in their only previous meeting.

Raonic never lost a set in the SAP Open in San Jose, winning the last three titles before the tournament was replaced on the calendar by Rio de Janeiro after 125 years in Northern California. 

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