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"She’s just getting started": Naomi Osaka has a supporter in Billie Jean King
The Japanese star has demonstrated a similar steadfastness to the 77-year-old, and thus has earned herself a special place in the legend's heart.
Published Jul 31, 2021
The Break: Rapid Fire, Olympics Edition
At just 23 years old, Naomi Osaka is recognized worldwide for her passion and influence both on and off the court. Over the last few months, however, decisions that she’s made regarding her participation on tour and her mental health have taken a controversial turn. Many have criticized and judged the young tennis star, and even questioned her direction in tennis.
There is one fan, though, who stands behind Osaka through and through. And this fan happens to be one of the most distinguished tennis players and champions of change in history.
Billie Jean King understands what it’s like to be in the spotlight, and she knows how it feels when people go from cheering to turning on you. But because she remained firm in what she believes in, King is now viewed as one the greatest pioneers of the sport and social justice leader. Osaka has demonstrated a similar steadfastness, and thus has earned herself a special place in the legend's heart.
"I love her because she speaks out on social justice and things that matter like mental health and Black Lives Matter and everything," King raved to a TMZ reporter.
Having the support of such a fighter carries some significant weight. King also emphasized the importance of athletes talking about depression and mental wellness, because they haven’t always been so open about it. She made it clear that the WTA does worry about such issues, but players never really started talking about them until recently. When Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros to take care of her mental health, it was controversial, but a step in the right direction. American gymnast Simone Biles recent pulled out of the Olympics for similar reasons, and the two are now making a strong statement about prioritizing mental health.
When it comes to questions about Osaka’s tennis career, King also has convincing opinion.
“She still has it. Are you kidding? She’s just getting started. She’s so young…No, she hasn’t lost a step, not at all.”
No questions asked: If Naomi Osaka ever needs another warrior in her corner, she can look no further to Billie Jean King.