Mari has taken an active role in shaping Naomi’s public image, particularly in illustrations and designs. She created a portrait of her sister staring firmly ahead for an issue of GQ Japan calling for solidarity in the face of the epidemic. For the Esquire article, she drew multiple outlines of Naomi’s face blending into one.
Naomi wrote in that magazine that the killing of George Floyd had galvanized her to speak up about systemic racism and police brutality. As she waited for tennis players to take a public stance, she said in a separate conversation with Billie Jean King, she realized she should make the first step.
While Naomi, who has described herself as shy, has been praised in the United States for finding her voice this year as an activist, she has always been conscious of racial bias, Mari said. In private, the sisters have often discussed how they were treated in the United States, Japan and other countries where they have traveled for matches, sharing stories about the people they met.
“We’ve known this issue and we’ve talked about it, and now she has people listening to it when she talks,” Mari said.
In a statement, the manga magazine did not address Ms. Osaka’s activism, but said that she was the “perfect new heroine” to present to readers.
“She works hard on training every day, and she dramatically demonstrates mental growth, one match after another,” it said. “She has a strong will and makes tremendous efforts behind the growth.”
Hisako Ueno contributed reporting from Tokyo.