Injured Osaka forfeits to Azarenka in Western & Southern final

Sports Desk, Aug 29 (efe-epa).- Victoria Azarenka won the women’s singles crown at the Western & Southern Open by default Saturday after world No. 10 Naomi Osaka withdrew due to a hamstring injury.

“I’m sorry to have to withdraw today with an injury,” the 22-year-old Osaka said in a statement. “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.”

That “outpouring of support” came in response to the decision by Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, not to the take the court on Thursday to show solidary with a 29-year-old African-American man shot several times in the back last Sunday by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Osaka was following the example of NBA and MLB players who successfully pushed their respective leagues to postpone games in a protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Reacting to Osaka’s move, tournament organizers put off all of Thursday’s scheduled matches for a day, while the USTA, ATP Tour and WTA said in a joint statement that tennis was “collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from the final was announced roughly 90 minutes before the final match was supposed to start in Louis Armstrong Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the New York City borough of Queens.

The Western & Southern Open is normally played in Cincinnati, Ohio, but to reduce unnecessary travel amid the coronavirus pandemic it is being held this year at the same venue as the US Open, a hard-court Grand Slam event that gets under way on Aug. 31.

Azarenka, 31, posted her first tournament victory since 2016.

The Belarusian player is a former world No. 1 and two-time winner of the women’s singles title at the Australian Open. Azarenka’s resume also includes two Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns – the 2007 US Open with Max Mirnyi and the 2008 French Open with Bob Bryan – and the gold medal in the mixed doubles at the 2012 Summer Olympics with Max Mirnyi.

But after barely playing for two years due to motherhood and a custody battle for her young son, Azarenka has been on the comeback trail since 2018 and is currently ranked 59th in the world. EFE apa/dr

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