A series of five portraits featuring women who redefined our sport.

Their influence reached far beyond center court. Empowering generations of female athletes to define their own voice and combat gender stereotypes.

Curated by : Caitlin Thompson, Publisher of Racquet, an award winning print magazine and media company

For the past four weeks, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite stories from women’s tennis’ past—getting to talk about women who’ve not only achieved greatness on the dimensions of a tennis court, but who also impacted our sport, our culture, our world is a big reason that David Shaftel and I started Racquet seven years ago. Today, by talking about women who’ve broken through and made things better for the ones who came next, it’s a great opportunity to talk about a player who is running because they walked, and who has the same instinct to speak her mind, challenge the structures holding all us—both men and women—back, and to push forward.

Naomi Osaka is such a person—arriving fully formed onto the tennis scene as a young phenom with a Gen Z native’s inclination toward directness and with an inherited landscape of a larger room to fill. Born in Japan, raised in America and with Haitian cultural ties, Osaka has used her multi-faceted cultural influence to connect and amplify, from raising the torch to the Olympic cauldron for Japan last year at the Tokyo Olympics to guest editing an issue of Racquet magazine that featured globe-spanning art and artists to co-hosting the Met Gala, Osaka is a modern realization of how tennis players are above all humans who seek and make connections between worlds, not just ball-machine automatons who stick to sports.

Her activism from halting a tournament to draw attention to Black Lives Matter and speaking out for mental health, while simultaneously causing tennis media to do some hard self-reflection about how gets into media centres and what access to athletes should look like, has put her on the path to greatness like the voices I’ve highlighted for the past few weeks. They paved the way, and it’s so exciting to see her continue the work.

The women trailblazers in tennis series is the latest feature of the gender equity program. 

Tennis Canada and National Bank have partnered to create meaningful actions and change for gender equity in tennis.

The aim of the program is to create opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet, become life-long participants, coaches, officials, and professionals, and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle and personal growth through sport.

For more information, go to https://www.tenniscanada.com/girls/