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Champions Osaka, Thiem make most of US Open adversities

September 16, 2020 00:00:00

Circumstances at this year's U.S. Open were extraordinary due to the Covid-19 pandemic but rather than getting deterred, champions Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem overcame them in order to fulfil their destinies, reports Reuters.

Debate raged for months after the United States Tennis Association announced in June that the hardcourt Grand Slam would go ahead in New York, which was once the global epicentre of the novel coronavirus pandemic, albeit without any fans in attendance.

Top men's and women's players raised concerns and expressed doubts over travelling to the United States.

The organisers tried to address their concerns but also continued their preparations for the Grand Slam, putting numerous rules in place designed at mitigating health risks.

One of those was the mandatory use of face mask, which became a tool for Osaka in her activism against racial injustice in the United States.

For each of her seven matches at Flushing Meadows, Osaka walked on to the court wearing a different face mask featuring the name of a Black American who suffered racial injustice in the United States.

The only way she could ensure that the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice were once again etched into public consciousness was by making it to the final.

"I feel like I'm a vessel in order to spread awareness," the two-time U.S. Open winner said. "I do think it's a very big motivating factor for me just to try to get the names out to as many people as I can.

"So I'm not sure if that's giving me extra power."

While Osaka found extra power, Victoria Azarenka showed she still had enough motivation to once again claw her way back to the top echelons of the sport, reaching a Grand Slam final after seven years.

The unseeded Belarusian was also one of nine mothers in the women's singles draw this year and showed exemplary grit during her comeback victory in the semi-finals over 23-times major winner Serena Williams.

The loss, however, prolonged the American's pursuit of Margaret Court's record 24 Grand Slam titles.

The wait for a first slam, however, finally ended for Thiem.

The 27-year-old had lost in three finals - twice to Rafa Nadal at the French Open and once to world number one Novak Djokovic at this year's Australian Open - and for the first two sets on Sunday he seemed like he was heading for another heartache.

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