Naomi Osaka says she realised she would have to “take the first step” in protesting against racial inequality and “create awareness in the tennis bubble”.
Japan’s Osaka initially pulled out of her semi-final at the Western and Southern Open because “as a black woman I feel there are much more important matters at hand”.
Tournament organisers then suspended play in New York on Thursday, one of a number of sporting events in the US to do so in protest at the shooting of Jacob Blake – a black man who was shot seven times in the back by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The 22-year-old Naomi Osaka then decided to play on Friday, beating Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-2 7-6 (7-5) in her rearranged semi-final.
“I honestly didn’t even think it would be that big of a deal,” said Osaka, who wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt as she walked on to court.
“I always thought it would be nice if someone started in tennis. I’m more of a follower. I was waiting and waiting and then I realised I was the one who was going to have to take the first step.
“I just wanted to create awareness in the tennis bubble. I think I did my job, I guess.”
In Saturday’s final Naomi Osaka will play Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, who beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 4-6 6-4 6-1.
The 2018 US Open champion, playing in her first tournament since January’s Australian Open, said after her win over Mertens: “For me it’s been a little bit stressful, I couldn’t really sleep last night so I’m really glad I was able to play at a pretty good level.
“I’m really glad I didn’t mentally collapse. I was down a break in the second and I got really tight in the tie-break so really glad I didn’t just dip.”
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