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Naomi Osaka Was Just Named the Best Athlete in Women’s Sports at the ESPYs

Naomi Osaka has another accomplishment to add to her ever-growing resumé: the 23-year-old was just named Best Athlete in Women’s Sports at the 2021 ESPY Awards.

The tennis star, who also won the award for Best Athlete in Women’s Tennis, attended the ceremony on Saturday, July 10 at New York City’s The Rooftop at Pier 17 alongside boyfriend Cordae. Pictures of Naomi on the red carpet and onstage show the athlete donning a flowing black-and-white striped top paired with a green skirt, her hair pulled back in a tight, high ponytail. Her look, featuring Luis Vuitton pieces, was styled by Karla Welch with jewelry by Ana Khouri.

In her speech while accepting the award for Best Athlete in Women’s Sports, Naomi acknowledged the challenging year that many have experienced—including herself. “I know this year has been really…tough for a lot of us,” she said, per People. “For me, I just want to say, I really love you guys and 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 on TV, so it’s really surreal to be here. Thank you so much, and I really appreciate it.”

Saturday’s award ceremony was Naomi’s first public appearance since withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon. The tennis star made the choice to step back from the tennis competitions after being fined $15,000 over her decision to not engage with the press at the French Open in order to protect her mental health.

In recent weeks, Naomi has received a wave of support from fellow athletes like Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, and Novak Djokovic, along with public figures including former First Lady Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle.

The tennis star recently expanded further on her experience in a powerful essay for TIME where she spoke candidly about her decision to step back from the press, and her later choice to withdraw from the events entirely. Naomi explained that her initial choice was always about preserving self-care as she struggles with anxiety and depression, emphasizing that the traditional “press conference” format is dated and in need of a makeover that prioritizes athletes’ well-being and health. “I believe that we can make it better, more interesting, and more enjoyable for each side,” she explained. “Less subject vs. object; more peer to peer.”

Her essay also explored the intense scrutiny that athletes face, reminding the public that sports figures are, at the end of the day, human. “In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it’s not habitual,” Naomi wrote in her letter. “You wouldn’t have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy. In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms—frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me. I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones.”

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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Naomi Osaka’s Withdrawal From the French Open Is a Lesson In Strength and Preservation

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