Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka won the Female Athlete of the Year award at the ESPYs on Saturday, beating off competition from the likes of Simone Biles (Gymnastics), Breanna Stewart (Basketball) and Amanda Nunes (MMA).
Osaka has had a successful few months, triumphing at the 2020 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open. She also made a tremendous impact off the court.
In 2020, the Japanese used her platform to raise awareness about racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S.
More recently, she brought the topic of mental health in sports into the spotlight after announcing at the French Open that she would not take part in press conferences to safeguard her mental health.
The 23-year-old was overwhelmed at receiving the ESPY award for Best Female Athlete, but was quick to lavish praise on her fellow athletes.
“This is my first ESPYs, so it’s really cool to be surrounded by all these incredible athletes. I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you guys on TV, so it’s really surreal to be here,” Osaka said.
"This year has been tough for a lot of us and for me" - Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka later took to Twitter to post a section of her winners' speech. The Japanese admitted that 2021 has been a tough year for everyone, including herself, before thanking her fans for their unwavering support.
“I know this year’s been really — it hasn’t even finished — but it’s been really tough for a lot of us and, for me, I just want to say I really love you guys,” Osaka added.
Naomi Osaka became only the fourth tennis player to win the award, joining the Serena Williams (2003, 2013), Venus Williams (2002) and Monica Seles (1993) in an exclusive club.
Naomi Osaka was also honored with the Sportsperson of the Year award by Sports Illustrated in December last year for her contributions on and off the court.
She shared the award with other prominent sports champions who undertook similar social responsibilities - LeBron James (Basketball), Breanna Stewart (Basketball), Patrick Mahomes (American Football) and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (American Football).