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Alyson Krueger for The Times writes:

Just a few days before Naomi Osaka, the defending champion of the United States Open, stepped onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens, for her first match of the 2021 tournament, the four-time Grand Slam title winner made another stop in Queens: to an unassuming public park in Jamaica.

There, at Detective Keith L. Williams Park, Ms. Osaka attended the unveiling of five renovated tennis courts with new nets and surfaces, all of which are surrounded by newly painted graphics and symbols. With funding from Bodyarmor, the sports drink company based in Whitestone, Queens, Ms. Osaka served as a creative and practical adviser on how to refurbish the tennis courts.

After all, it was personal for her.

Ms. Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese (and who represents Japan when she competes), was 3 years old when her family left Osaka, Japan, for Elmont, a hamlet on Long Island near the Queens border. Soon after, her father started to bring Naomi and her younger sister, Mari, to the Jamaica courts because they were free and inclusive. The sisters learned how to play tennis there. Naomi went on to become the No. 1 player in the world in 2019.

“As a traveling athlete, the place that always feels like home is Queens and these courts,” said Ms. Osaka, who played tennis in Jamaica until her family left the area for Pembroke Pines, Fla., when she was 8. “Mari and I spent so much time here as kids, so many hours on these courts, practicing, and we really feel a connection to not only the courts but the area and the community.”



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