PHILANTHROPY

Ahead Of The US Open, Naomi Osaka Rebuilds the Tennis Courts That Raised Her

The two-time US Open champ partnered with BODYARMOR to revitalize the courts at Detective Keith L. Williams Park in Jamaica, Queens.

Compton Meerabux, a Queens resident of 40 years, emphatically recalls watching a young Naomi Osaka climbing the fences at Detective Keith L. Williams Park’s tennis courts more than a decade ago.  

Osaka smiles when she sees him. She remembers him, too. 

“It’s a wonderful feeling seeing someone you saw growing up out here. Man, it makes my day,” Meerabux told Boardroom. “I didn’t expect her to be so tall. She’s taller than I am.” 

Osaka is back in Jamaica, Queens on a hot Thursday afternoon. She’s back on the courts of her youth. But this time, it’s with her foundation, Play Academy, and major sponsor BODYARMOR LYTE.

Osaka and BODYARMOR teamed up to unveil refurbished tennis courts with the help of New York graffiti artist Mast. These courts are a staple of her childhood; they’re where she learned to play tennis. That made it an easy decision to renovate them with a little help from her friends.

“Partnering with BODYARMOR and just knowing how we’re both based in Queens, I’m kind of based in Queens, I moved later on,” Osaka said during a Q&A at the official unveiling event. “To know that they have such strong roots here, for me, just revisiting here and wanting to build up and do better for the community, I think this is very important for both of us.”

Osaka’s presence means even more for the community than the new courts can convey. The renovated courts fall under New York City Council Member Daneek Miller’s jurisdiction. Miller’s hope is that young kids in his 27th District use Osaka’s gift to her former home as inspiration for what they can aspire to.

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“When you look out the window and see a doctor and lawyer, you aspire to be that. When you look out the window and see some of the things you see in urban America, you become a product of your environment,” Miller said. “So to know that Naomi and others have a similar experience is encouraging to young folks to say ‘Hey, I’m next.’” 

The courts are vibrant, bright, and colorful — which was intentional on Osaka’s part. 

“I always thought it was really important to be colorful,” the two-time US Open champ said. “I think courts kind of stay the same neutral colors, so just giving it a pop of color and making it recognizable is really important.” 

The crowd, made up of participants of the youth tennis clinic “LYTE Up the Courts,” agreed with the style choices — when Osaka asked for their thoughts on the new court, she was met with a wave of applause. 

As the US Open gets underway, the residents in Queens will get to enjoy their new court while they root for their own.

“I wish she could just win more. And break records,” Meerabux said. “That’s my dream to see her do.”