NEW YORK         -    Naomi Osaka has decided to play her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open in New York after previously saying she would withdraw from the match to protest against racial injustice, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. 

The 22-year-old Japanese was originally scheduled to play her semi-final on Thursday but tournament organisers decided to postpone all the last-four matches to Friday. “As you know, I pulled out of the tournament yesterday in support of racial injustice and continued police violence. I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent,” Osaka said. “However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday. They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement. I want to thank the WTA and the Tournament for their support.” 

Osaka joined similar protests by athletes in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball following the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin on Sunday. Osaka defeated Anett Kontaveit 4-6 6-2 7-5 to reach the semis where she was scheduled to face Belgian Elise Mertens, who needed just over an hour to defeat qualifier Jessica Pegula 6-1 6-3 and reach her first Premier 5 semi-final. The Japanese, a two-time Grand Slam champion, will play Belgian Elise Mertens in the final tune-up event ahead of the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 U.S. Open. 

British number one Johanna Konta punched her ticket to the semi-finals with a 6-4 6-3 win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who entered the match fresh off a win over Serena Williams for one of the biggest wins of her career. Up next for Konta is a clash with former world number one Victoria Azarenka, a 7-6 6-2 winner over Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. 

DJOKOVIC CRUISES INTO SEMIS WHERE BAUTISTA AGUT AWAITS

Novak Djokovic cruised past Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1 on Wednesday to reach a record-equalling eighth Western & Southern Open semi-final where he will face Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. 

The semi-finals will be played on Friday, scheduled as the final day of the event, after organisers joined other sporting events in suspending play on Thursday in protest against racial injustice. 

With the win, Djokovic tied Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer and Bill Talbert’s semi-final totals at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Earlier, Bautista Agut produced a stunning comeback to defeat third seed Daniil Medvedev 1-6 6-4 6-3 and reach his maiden semi-final in the event, which is being played at Flushing Meadows, New York instead of Cincinnati due to COVID-19. 

In other quarter-final matches, Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced after Reilly Opelka, who was leading 6-5, retired due to a knee injury. Tsitsipas will play Milos Raonic, a 4-6 7-6(2) 7-5 winner over Serbian Filip Krajinovic, for a spot in the final.