Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka closed out a roller-coaster season with another honor to her name as she graced the cover of Vogue’s January 2021 issue.
The World No.3 became the second tennis player to feature on the cover in the magazine’s 128-year history after Serena Williams (April 2015, February 2018), with a fashion spread shot by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Osaka, who was named as one of Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year last week, opened up to Vogue about the emotion-fraught weeks leading up to her Western & Southern Open final appearance and US Open triumph.
“As tennis players, we’re so hyper-focused on what happens on the court, and we think our life is sort of determined by whether we win a match or not,” she told Vogue. “That’s not true. I think that the pandemic gave me the chance to go into the real world and do things that I wouldn’t have done without it.”
She added, “I always grew up with a little bit more Japanese heritage and culture, but I’m Black, and I live in America, and I personally didn’t think it was too far-fetched when I started talking about things that were happening here. There are things going on here that really scare me.”
When the WTA Tour resumed, Osaka became an increasingly vocal advocate for racial justice and she used her US Open run to bring awareness for Black victims of police violence. She revealed to Vogue the motivation behind the seven different face masks she wore during her Grand Slam winning run.
“I was just thinking that I had this opportunity to raise awareness," Osaka said. "Tennis is watched all around the world, so people who might not know these names can Google them and learn their stories... That was a big motivator for me, and I think it helped me win the tournament.”
Click here to view Naomi Osaka’s January 2021 cover of Vogue.