- 30 Aug 2019
Naomi Osaka’s straight-sets victory over Magda Linette at the US Open was partially motivated by a desire to keep Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick out of the sun.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant and former San Francisco 49ers star Kaepernick, whose activism has effectively ended his NFL career but seen him become one of the world’s most influential athletes, were sat in Osaka’s box on Thursday as she overcame Linette 6-2 6-4.
Osaka had to work harder in her first-round match, in which she came from a set down to defeat Anna Blinkova 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 in New York.
The top seed wrapped things up in much shorter order to reach round three, helping her famous fans beat the heat in the process at Flushing Meadows.
Asked if she felt added pressure having Bryant and Kaepernick in her box, Osaka told a media conference: “I don’t feel like it’s pressure, but I do feel like I did want to play well.
“I don’t know. It’s just funny to me. You know, like, last year compared to this year there is no way, like, Kobe would sit in my box. Yeah, Kaepernick, too. It’s just crazy who you run into in life.
Heartwarming moments like this one is what we love to see…
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 29, 2019
“For me, it wasn’t pressure. It was just like I really didn’t want them to sit in the sun too long, honestly. That was the thing that was on my mind. I was, like, I don’t really want to play a third set.”
On the advice Bryant gives her, she added: “Everybody knows Kobe gives me real-life advice. He’s someone I look up to as an athlete and also as a person.
“I’m really grateful that I even have the opportunity to, like, talk to him and stuff.”