When Naomi Osaka decided to put her racquets down at the Western & Southern Open in protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, she made the biggest statement possible. The 23-year-old wouldn't stop there, throughout her winning US Open campaign, she continued to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.

And the world certainly noticed.

Jay Clarke tells Baseline that her bold statement from one of the sport's biggest stages was powerful for young Black players and minorities.


"I don't think enough athletes do it and the fact that it was such a big tournament and a lot of points are up for grabs, it didn't really matter because she knew what was important," Clarke says.

With the spotlight shining brightly on Osaka, she would wear seven masks during her US Open title win. Her actions made Clarke, a fellow mixed-race player, both proud and inspired.

"This sport isn't just for certain classes and certain races, it's starting to become the best of whoever is at the top now," Clarke says. "Before, I don't think the opportunities were there. It's really nice to see everyone coming together."

Clarke has experienced discrimination based off the color of his skin throughout his young career, starting when he was just 12. The world No. 191 has been on the receiving end of racial slurs when he loses matches.

"If someone who is white loses matches, it's, oh, your serve is off or your forehand is bad," the 22-year-old Brit says. "But whenever I receive messages, it's always a racial slur that comes at me. That happened even when there wasn't money on it, it was just juniors and you're just playing for experience."


The ignorant comments and discrimination does not break his spirit thanks to his father's teachings.

"I've always been raised proud to be Black," Clarke says."My dad gave us a lot of information, and what to expect even when I was little and I didn't really even know what he was talking about. He was educating me even then. So, it wasn't a big shock."

Clarke was prepared for anything.

"It's always small-minded people who always say these things about race and gender," Clarke says. "Things that have nothing to do with me hitting a tennis ball. I've accepted it."


In terms of bringing more diversity into the sport, Clarke believes making the sport more affordable can help reach a more diverse audience.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is already working on an initiative to resurface hard courts at local parks and give grants to clubs to buy tennis balls.

The Brit started playing tennis at the age of three and he continued to pursue the sport not just with the hopes of winning a major, but to enjoy being on court with his family. These days, his older siblings Curtis and Yasmin help coach him.

"I think the more people that can actually play tennis and learn to enjoy it," Clarke says. "You don't have to pick up a racquet to win Wimbledon. I think tennis is seen as a sport in which you have to take it all the way, when you really don't."

For now, Clarke still has Grand Slams in his sights: he'll kick off his 2021 campaign in Doha at the Australian Open qualifying event.