Naomi Osaka speaks during a press conference at the WTA Finals in...

Naomi Osaka speaks during a press conference at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province, on OCt. 29, 2019. Credit: AP/Andy Wong

Naomi Osaka will play in the semifinals of the Western  & Southern Open after pulling out on Wednesday night to protest racial injustice and the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

In a statement released to the Guardian newspaper of London, Osaka said: “As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday in support of racial injustice and continued police violence. I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent.

“However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the Tournament for their support.”

The USTA owns the W&S and moved it to New York to precede the U.S Open. Along with the ATP and WTA tours it made the decision to pause the tournament on Thursday, delaying the semis until Friday, when the original schedule called for the finals, which will now will be held on Saturday.

In a statement released late Wednesday night, the organizations said: “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 Tour, and WTA have decided to recognize this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, Aug. 27.”

Osaka, the 2018 U.S. Open champion, announced her withdrawal late Wednesday with a Twitter post that read:

“Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow. However, before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. 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.

"Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. 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?

"#Jacob Blake, #BreonnaTaylor, #Elijah Mcclain, #George Floyd”.

Osaka, 22, who is black and Japanese, flew to Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd during a police arrest there sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.  She also penned an op-ed for Esquire magazine on racial injustice and has taken to Twitter and Instagram to express her strong feelings about the need for societal change.

Milos Raonic, who reached the semifinals of the men’s tournament with a late night win on Wednesday, said after his match: “I think real disruption, that’s what makes change, and I think a lot of real disruption is caused by affecting people in a monetary way and can force some kind of change. I’m hoping at least we on the men’s tour as well as the women’s, we band together and we show support.”

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S.Open champion, retweeted Osaka’s message, saying: “Say it louder! Proud of you.”

Osaka will face Elise Martens in the semifinal on Friday with Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta meeting in the other one. In the men’s tournament Novak Djokovic will face Roberto Bautista Agut and Raonic will face Stefanos Tsitsipas.

On Osaka’s Twitter account at midday Thursday was this. “Today this page will only have good vibes from now on.”

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