NEW YORK, NY, USA – Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the final of the Western & Southern Open citing a left hamstring injury, leaving Victoria Azarenka to claim her 21st WTA Tour title.
The WTA World No.10 had overcome Elise Mertens in the semifinals on Friday after three-sets wins over Karolina Muchova and Anett Kontaveit sandwiched a straight-set victory over Dayana Yastremska.
The Japanese player said: “I’m sorry to have to withdraw today with an injury. I pulled my left hamstring yesterday in the second set tiebreak and it has not recovered overnight as I had hoped. This has been an emotional week and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support.”
Earlier in the week, she had made headlines when she decided to join in the athlete-led protests across America against racial injustice, leading to a one-day pause in play, and she explained she had an “eye-opening” couple of days.
“I honestly didn't think it would even be that big of a deal,” she told ESPN. “I thought I would just withdraw and make a statement. But then I got a call from Steve Simon and he said he was fully supportive so I'm really grateful for that.
“I felt like I also needed to raise my voice, too. So I called Stu, my agent, and we talked it over. Then we called the WTA, and they said that they would love to support and they were going to push play back a day. So I put out my statement.
“I feel like it's been kind of hectic, and I honestly haven't been able to get that much sleep yesterday. So I'm glad I was able to win today.”
She admitted that the statement was more far reaching than she expected.
“Honestly when I posted it, I just thought it would make rounds in the tennis circle,” she said. “So if I'm being completely honest, it was a bit frightening for me, and I had to turn off my phone because I get really anxious whenever I see people talking about me. But then, honestly, I did put myself in that situation, so that was kind of stupid. I would just say I didn't expect the response that I got.
“It's definitely a bit eye-opening but in an odd way, because I only previously thought the Big Three and Serena would have that type of power.
“But also, at the same time, I recognize the fact that maybe the WTA and ATP wanted to do something like this but they needed a push from a player to do something like this? So maybe I was sort of that one player.
“I think it's definitely really cool of them to do this and for them to be open to changing for social issues.”
Osaka is slated to play at the US Open next week, where she will face compatriot Misaki Doi in the first round at the tournament in which she won her maiden major in 2018.