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Naomi Osaka Lights Cauldron at 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 23, 2021

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka was selected as the final torchbearer and lit the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2021 Summer Games on Friday in Tokyo.

#Tokyo2020 @Tokyo2020

🎾<a href="https://twitter.com/naomiosaka?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@naomiosaka</a> is your final Olympic flame torchbearer and has lit the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Olympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Olympics</a> cauldron 🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UnitedByEmotion?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UnitedByEmotion</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StrongerTogether?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StrongerTogether</a> <a href="https://t.co/PQLe8FmX2v">pic.twitter.com/PQLe8FmX2v</a>

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, is one of the marquee athletes in this year's Olympics with a chance to deliver a gold medal to the host nation in women's tennis.

US Open Tennis @usopen

Iconic.<br><br>🇯🇵 Naomi Osaka lights the flame for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> <a href="https://t.co/fPa54K7onx">pic.twitter.com/fPa54K7onx</a>

The 23-year-old superstar has taken some time away from the tennis court since withdrawing from the French Open in June in order to focus on her mental health.

She wrote an essay for Time magazine saying she took the "past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones," but she is ready to represent her country in the Olympics on home soil.

"I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo," Osaka wrote. "An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud."

The first hint she was selected as the final torchbearer, a marquee role that's typically kept secret by the host nation until the opening ceremony, came earlier Friday when it was announced her first-round match against Saisai Zheng on Saturday had been postponed until Sunday.

Olympics @Olympics

Let the Games begin 🔥<br><br>Four-time major tennis champion Naomi Osaka has the honour of lighting the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> Olympic cauldron.<a href="https://twitter.com/naomiosaka?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@naomiosaka</a>, a battler on court, offers a symbol of hope for her home country <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JPN?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JPN</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StrongerTogether?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StrongerTogether</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ir01GZ5imn">pic.twitter.com/Ir01GZ5imn</a>

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Osaka is making her first appearance in the Olympics.

The opening ceremony was held without fans at Japan National Stadium in Tokyo because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. There will also be no spectators at the sporting events throughout the Games. 

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