Naomi Osaka back on court as ‘face of the Games’ after French Open storm

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Naomi Osaka practices at the Ariake Tennis Centre in Tokyo (AP)
Naomi Osaka practices at the Ariake Tennis Centre in Tokyo (AP)

Naomi Osaka has returned to the tennis court after her dramatic withdrawal from the public eye citing mental health issues.

The 23-year-old is set to be the face of the Olympics after announcing she would play for her birth country of Japan rather than the United States.

Sporting red braids, she was seen on Monday on a practice court in Tokyo just days before the opening ceremony.

The star caused a storm during the French Open when she announced she would skip all her press conferences in Paris to protect her mental health.

The four-time Slam champion was handed a fine and warned that she could be defaulted if she continued to forego her media responsibilities. She then quit the tournament and did not play at Wimbledon, explaining she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first grand slam title in 2018.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, was born in Japan and moved to New York at the age of three. She previously held dual American and Japanese citizenship. Her face is now plastered on billboards across Japan as excitement builds. She said recently it had never been “a secret” that she would represent Japan and revealed she had faced a racist backlash for her decision, saying: “So I don’t choose America, and suddenly people are like, ‘Your black card is revoked’.

“And it’s like, African-American isn’t the only black, you know? I don’t know, I feel like people don’t know the difference between nationality and race because there’s a lot of black people in Brazil, but they’re Brazilian.”

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