Naomi Osaka pledges Cincinnati prize money to Haitian earthquake relief

Osaka decided to pledge the money from next week's Western & Southern Open to relief efforts in Haiti after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake.

Naomi Osaka in a file photo. (Image: Twitter/@naomiosaka)

Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka has pledged her prize money from next week’s Western & Southern Open to relief efforts in Haiti after the country was struck by a 7.2 earthquake on Saturday. Several reports from Haiti have indicated that many people have lost their lives or got injured due to the devastating quake. A finalist last year when the tournament was held in New York at the Billie Jean USTA National Tennis Center, Osaka is set to play her first tour event after pulling out of Roland Garros in May. The Japanese tennis player is seeded No.2, only behind No.1 Ashleigh Barty, and has a bye into the second round. She will face either 17-year-old American Coco Gauff or a qualifier.

“Really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti and I feel like we can’t catch a break,” Osaka, born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, wrote on Twitter. “I’m about to play a tournament this week and I’ll give all the prize money to relief efforts for Haiti. I know our ancestors blood is strong we’ll keep rising.”

After withdrawing from the French Open, the World No. 2 Osaka had also pulled out from the Wimbledon in June. However, Naomi Osaka recently took part in the Tokyo Olympics as a strong medal contender. But, Naomi, who had also lit the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, exited the tournament early, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Cincinnati draw

With the draw for the Western & Southern Open is out, fans can see No.1 Ashleigh Barty and No.2 Naomi Osaka back in action. The latest edition has no shortage of mouth-watering clashes in the early rounds. Barty is set to play her first tour event since winning the Wimbledon last month. The Australian suffered a first-round loss at the Tokyo Olympics against Sara Sorribes Tormo but still won a bronze in mixed doubles in her Olympic debut.

Barty will face a qualifier in the second round. She could face defending champion Azarenka in the round-of-16 and a potential quarterfinal could be against Barbora Krejcikova, Garbine Muguruza and Sloane Stephens. Meanwhile, Stephens could face Muguruza in the second round if she gets past her qualifier opponent in the opener. French Open champion Krejcikova will play her first-round match against San Jose finalist Daria Kasatkina. The Czech has won 22 of her past 24 matches.

Naomi Osaka could face Coco Gauff in second round

After returning to the court at the Olympics last month for the first time since withdrawing from Roland Garros in May, No.2 Osaka will be the one to look forward to in Cincinnati. With a bye into the second round, Osaka could face 17-year-old Gauff. The American will have to defeat a qualifier in the first round if she intends to face Osaka next.

The bottom quarter also features a rematch of the Tokyo Olympics gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova. Bencic had won the match in Tokyo 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to become the first woman to win tennis gold for Switzerland.

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