Many had high hopes for Naomi Osaka during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in her native Japan, but after she unexpectedly lost during an early round match on Tuesday (July 27), an outpouring of disbelief, yet a lot of sympathy followed.
Yuji Taida, a novelist and fan of the 23-year-old tennis champion, congratulated her after her exit from the Olympics.
“Watching you gave me courage. You don’t have to win a medal. Watching you play is enough for all your fans,” Taida said, according to the Associated Press.
In the press, Osaka’s loss was described as “not to be.”
“Her mother’s motherland. Her dream to stand at the pinnacle, with the rising sun on her heart, was not to be,” Sports Hochi, a Japanese daily sports newspaper, reported, according to the AP.
Taking to her own Instagram account, prior to Tuesday’s match, Osaka described competing in the Olympics as “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”
The four-time major champion was upset in the third round by Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Osaka, who had 32 unforced errors in the match, became yet another big name to exit early in Tokyo. World No. 1 and Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia lost in the opening round while No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus lost in the second round.
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open in late May after she received a fine for not speaking to the media. She said her exit from the tournament was to protect her mental health.
"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” she stated. “More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."
Social media also provided an outpouring of support for Naomi Osaka. See what some had to say below.
It’s impossible to understand the pressure Simone Biles—the greatest gymnast in the history of the sport—and Naomi Osaka are feeling, but we’re lucky to live in a time where young Black trailblazers are publicly prioritizing their mental health above all else. That’s power.— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) July 27, 2021
i’m always proud of you, and i know that doesn’t help right now but i am. you were in your first olympics. you lit the cauldron to kick it off. that’s a major achievement and i’m so incredibly proud of you ❤️ @naomiosaka seriously pic.twitter.com/RC6dgqzoQP— Ana (@thegreatestana) July 27, 2021
anyway stream Naomi Osaka’s docu on Netflix she’s incredible 💘💘💘💘— HOOD VOGUE is tired of poverty (@itskeyon) July 27, 2021
i love naomi osaka immensely. a butterfly blessed queen. pic.twitter.com/J0TwvuYqJE— tahnee ✨ (@hangmanpages) July 27, 2021
The backlash against Black women athletes who simply want to decide how they engage with the press & public on their own terms is an attempt to preserve a culture that commodifies & exploits Black womanhood. My solidarity with @naomiosaka, as the #TokyoOlympics2021 ramp up. https://t.co/aKGYo9LLuv— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) July 27, 2021
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images