Tennis ace, Andy Murray claimed Naomi Osaka’s significant role in the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony was great news for the image of tennis worldwide.
Osaka, 23, the most recognisable sportswomen in Japan, lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday night, signalling the start of these 16-day troubled Games.
It was a moment watched by billions around the world on TV – there were no fans present due to Covid – and it was her first appearance in public since quitting last month’s French Open following a media boycott.
World no.2 Osaka is due to play China’s Zheng Saisai in the first round on Sunday and the locals will be watching her every move for the next week of competition.
She was originally scheduled to play on Saturday, but that match was moved because of her opening ceremony role.
Murray, 23, said: “I actually didn’t see that part of it, we were in bed.
“But obviously it’s fantastic for her, great for tennis that she was able to do that.
“I think everyone had a bit of an idea it was going to happen when her match got moved.
“It’s great for tennis that she is the face of the Games here and hopefully she can do well in front of – well it’s not in front of a crowd really, but on home soil.”
Murray and Joe Salisbury stunned French No 2 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in their opening round doubles match on Saturday.
Under a scorching midday Tokyo sun, on an empty Court 5, the Brit pair knocked out No.2 French seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-2.
Hubert had to withdraw from the Wimbledon second round with an injury but that should not take away from the Brits’ performance, especially as their opponents were going for the career Grand Slam together.
Murray, 34, won singles gold at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, and also has a silver medal in mixed doubles on his stellar record.
Next up they will face Germans Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz while Murray has singles action to negotiate against his US Open tormentor Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.