The Daily Telegraph - Business : 2020-09-14

Sport : 30 : 22


22 The Daily Telegraph Monday 14 September 2020 *** Sport Osaka hopes US Open win would make mentor Kobe Bryant proud By Simon Briggs Everyone has a really great story about him just being kind, spreading warmth. I just want to be the type of person that he thought I was going to be. He thought I was going to be great, so hopefully I will be great in the future. Only time will tell.” Osaka said that she had experience­d “a lot of hard times” during the past three weeks. Rather than staying in one of the official tournament hotels, she was holed up in a private house in Manhattan with new coach Wim Fissette, fitness trainer Yatuka Nakamura and physio Natsuko Mogi. “You sort of overthink a lot of things,” she said. But then, Osaka’s propensity for deep thought is what makes her such a rare and special athlete. Unlike the vast majority of her peers, she used her time away from the game to consider her role in society. Which is why, over the past fortnight, she has worn seven customised masks each featuring the names of black victims of police brutality or racism in the United States. During Saturday night’s post-match presentati­on ceremony, host Tom Rinaldi asked her what message she had been trying to put across. Osaka fixed him with a look that suggested she did not rate the question much. “What was the message that you got, is more the question,” she replied. Later, in the video conference room, she spoke more about the backdrop to her extraordin­ary New York run, which delivered an unbroken sequence of 12 wins, as long as you discount her withdrawal from the final of the Western & Southern Open build-up event because of hamstring concerns. “Quarantine gave me a chance to think a lot about what I want to accomplish, what I want people to remember me by,” Osaka said. “I came into these tournament­s with that mindset [and] the feeling of being grateful that I can even play. I just wanted to really fight.” Osaka certainly needed to fight in a final that began with Azarenka striking laser-guided winners from the most unlikely positions. Osaka was little more than a spectator in a first set that whizzed past in only 24 minutes. At that stage, she admitted later, her main concern had been to make the scoreline respectabl­e. But there is a problem with playing in an almost dreamlike state – as Azarenka was early on. You can wake up with a start. From a position of total command – 6-1, 2-0, 40-30 – all it took was a pair of sprayed forehands, and the effect on Azarenka’s psyche was that of a couple of quick wickets on a cricket dressing room. You could almost see the fight-or-flight circuits lighting up in her brain. Osaka showed her underrated matchcraft at this point, cranking up her pace without aiming too close to the lines. The result was a thrilling comeback, in which she won 12 of the remaining 16 games to complete a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. Her third major title demonstrat­ed beyond doubt that politics and sport can mix successful­ly, not least by fuelling her own motivation. Last night, the US Open’s tournament director Stacey Allaster was asked for her verdict on Osaka’s win. “The leadership that Naomi showed on Arthur Ashe Stadium – I was thinking about that,” Allaster replied. “I was thinking how proud Arthur would be.” Round Two: Elijah McClain Champion thanks the late LA Lakers star for believing in her Tournament director praises winner for her leadership Round Three: Ahmaud Arbery Naomi Osaka came into the interview room on Saturday night wearing the LA Lakers’ No8 jersey, made famous by the late Kobe Bryant. Here was a personal tribute to an athlete she once described as her “big bro/mentor/inspiratio­n”. Osaka – who had just beaten Victoria Azarenka to lift the US Open singles title – came to know Bryant last year, after they were introduced through her management agency. She found him approachab­le and interested, an invaluable source of advice on how to handle her new status as world No 1. Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash was thus even more gut-wrenching for Osaka than for the millions of sports fans who had come to know him through their screens. At the time, she posted an emotional letter on Twitter in which she thanked him for “randomly texting me ‘You OK?’, because you know how f **** d up my head is sometimes”. After Saturday night’s triumph, she was asked to speak more about their bond. “I feel like there are certain things that I do that I hope can make him proud,” she said. “It’s, like, keeping his legacy alive for me. I think it’s amazing how one person can inspire so many people. Round Four: Trayvon Martin Quarter-final: George Floyd Semi-final: Philando Castile Final: Tamir Rice US Open men’s final Alexander Zverev v Dominic Thiem First reports: IOC urged to ban Iran from Olympics after execution of wrestler Olympic Games CHIEF SPORTS REPORTER By Jeremy Wilson World Wrestling immediatel­y implement sanctions that expel Iran from world sport,” it said in a statement. The IOC said that Thomas Bach, its president, had personally made direct appeals “for mercy”. There was, however, no mention of action against Iran. “It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC, together with the NOC of Iran, United World Wrestling and the National Iranian Wrestling Federation, did not achieve our goal,” said the IOC in statement. The World Players Associatio­n, which represents 85,000 athletes, called for Iran’s expulsion from internatio­nal sport. “The horrific act of executing an athlete can only be regarded as a repudiatio­n of the humanitari­an values that underpin sport,” said a spokespers­on. “It must result in Iran forfeiting its right to be a part of sport’s universal community.” Global Athlete, which also represents athletes, echoed that call. “We call on athlete solidarity to demand that the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee and United him to be spared. Iran’s judiciary has denied Afkari’s torture claims. The Islamic Republic News Agency reported Afkari’s death on Saturday, saying that “legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim”. The Internatio­nal Olympic Committee is being urged to expel Iran from the Tokyo Games next year after a Greco-Roman wrestler, Navid Afkari, was executed. Afkari was convicted of stabbing to death a security guard during anti-government protests in Shiraz in 2018, but had since insisted that he made a confession only under torture. “The evidence is there if the court wants to investigat­e [the acts of torture],” Afkari said in a tape obtained by an Iranian human rights group. “There is not one shred of evidence… that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realised they are looking for a neck for their rope.” Afkari was charged with murder, along with “waging war against the state”, for participat­ing in the demonstrat­ions. Iranian state media broadcast Afkari’s confession last week after Donald Trump, the United States president, called for