Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday in protest against racial injustice hours after the two-times Grand Slam champion had booked her spot in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open tune-up event.
The 22-year-old Japanese joins similar protests by athletes in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Sunday in Wisconsin.
It is unclear if Osaka will reconsider her decision after organizers suspended play for Thursday as a mark of protest. The semi-finals will now be played on Friday, which is scheduled to be the final day of the event.
“Before I am a athlete, I am a Black woman,” she said on Twitter.
“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.”
Osaka defeated Anett Kontaveit 4-6 6-2 7-5 to reach the semis where she was scheduled to face Belgian Elise Mertens, who needed just over an hour to defeat qualifier Jessica Pegula 6-1 6-3 and reach her first Premier 5 semi-final.
By pulling out of the semi-finals Osaka is giving up the chance to sharpen her game further ahead of the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 U.S. Open Grand Slam but she said it was important for tennis to address the issue of racial injustice.