Osaka upset but supports Olympic delay to next year

By Reuters: Monday, March 30th 2020 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Sports
Japan’s Naomi Osaka after winning a point against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. [File]

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, the poster girl of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, took to social media on Saturday to show her support for the decision to postpone the Games until next year

Osaka, who won the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019, was the central character in the video to launch Tokyo 2020’s official motto for the Games, launched last month.

The coronavirus has since spread across the world, however, leading to last week’s decision by the Japanese government and International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games.

“Everyone knows how much the Olympics means to me and how proud I will be to participate in my home country,” Osaka, the world number 10, wrote on Twitter.

“Of course, I am disappointed that it won’t happen this year but we’ll all be ready to stronger ever in 2021! I support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s brave decision and the IOC 100%.

“Sport will eventually unite us again and be there for us always, but that time not now,” the 22-year-old added.

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“To the people of Japan: stay strong, hang in there, and let’s the show the world our beautiful country when time is right in 2021.”

Osaka, the first Asian to be ranked world number one, concluded with a message for her 500,000 plus Twitter followers.

“Stay safe everyone, take care of each other, be kind and we will make it through. Love, Naomi.”

Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother before being raised in the United States, was chosen to lead Tokyo 2020’s “United by Emotion” motto as the face of a changing country.

Japan, which has traditionally seen itself as a racially homogeneous country, is becoming more ethnically diverse and Osaka has been at the forefront of a new wave of sporting heroes set to represent the host nation at the Olympics.

Coronavirus infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,400, with 47 deaths.

Meanwhile, with careers spent scratching around dusty outposts, sometimes with “just $100” in their pockets, tennis’ unheralded army of foot soldiers claim they are struggling to afford food after being made unemployed overnight by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Georgian player Sofia Shapatava is pleading with the International Tennis Federation to dig deep and help out the hundreds of players who lost their livelihoods when the men’s and women’s tours went into a three-month lockdown.

“Players lower ranked than 250 will not be able to buy food in two-three weeks’ time,” warned Shapatava, who is not optimistic the ITF will look favourably on her plea.

 “I honestly don’t think so,” she told AFP.

“They replied that their plate is full and they will come back to me as soon as they can. But after that email they did not reply with anything.”

Shapatava, the world number 371, is a 16-year veteran of the tour.

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