Osaka voices support for ‘brave decision’ to postpone Tokyo Olympics until 2021

hannahwilks in News 28 Mar 2020
Naomi Osaka during Japan’s Fed Cup qualifying tie against Spain in Cartagena in February (Photo by Jose Breton/Sipa USA)

Disappointed Naomi Osaka called the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics ‘brave’ and promised to be ‘ready to go stronger than ever in 2021’.

Osaka would have been one of the key faces of the Tokyo Olympics, as one of Japan’s most prominent international athletes.

Writing on social media, Osaka detailed her reaction to Wednesday’s news that the Tokyo Olympics would be postponed until 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Osaka wrote:

‘Everyone knows how much the Olympics means to me and how proud I will be to participate in my home country.

‘Of course I am disappointed that it won’t happen this year, but we’ll all be ready to go stronger than ever in 2021!’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach agreed this week that the Olympics needed to be postponed until next year, but would not be held later than summer 2021. It will still be known as Tokyo 2020.

Osaka called the decision ‘brave’.

‘I support Prime Minister Abe’s brave decision and the IOC 100%. Sport will eventually unite us again and be there for us always, but that time is not now.

‘This is a time for people from all countries, backgrounds and races to rally together to save as many lives as we can. To me, that is the Olympic spirit.’

Osaka had initially responded less positively to the news that the Olympics was likely to be postponed to 2021, writing ‘Don’t you dare’, accompanied by an emoji of pleading eyes, in a since-deleted Tweet.

The exact dates for the 2021 Olympics tennis event are not yet known, but it is likely to take place between Wimbledon and the US Open.

Andy Murray and Monica Puig are the reigning singles champions, while Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez of Spain won the gold in men’s doubles in 2016 and Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina claimed the women’s doubles gold for Spain.

Osaka did not compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Osaka concluded her statement with a plea to the people of Japan, writing: ‘Stay strong, hang in there, and let’s show the world our beautiful country when the time is right in 2021.’

The 22-year-old, who is Haitian-Japanese but represents the nation in which she was born and from which her mother hails, was the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title when she claimed the 2018 US Open title.

Osaka with the Indian Wells trophy and the Japanese flag after winning the BNP Paribas Open in 2018 (Credit Image: © Charles Baus/CSM/Sipa USA)

Osaka went on to become the first Asian player to rank world no. 1 after she won her second major title at the 2019 Australian Open – the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win her first and second Grand Slam titles in back-to-back majors.

Currently ranked world no. 10 after failing to defend her Australian Open title, losing in the third round to Coco Gauff, Osaka has lucrative endorsement agreements with several major Japanese brands, including Nissan, Citizen Watch, Nissin Foods, Shiseido, Wowow and All Nippon Airways (ANA). She earned an estimated $16 million in endorsements in 2019, second only to Serena Williams among female athletes.

Osaka confirmed last year that she would be representing Japan at the Olympic Games. Japanese law requires those with dual nationality to select one nationality at the age of 22. Osaka officially renounced her US citizenship.

‘It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan. I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional,’ she said at the time.

Osaka has played six Fed Cup ties for Japan, compiling a 5-2 win-loss record.

All ATP, WTA and ITF tennis is currently suspended until the week beginning 8 June, with the French Open rescheduled to September. A decision on whether or not Wimbledon 2020 will be cancelled is expected in the coming week, with organizers having ruled out postponing the tournament or playing it behind closed doors.