Naomi Osaka graces cover of historic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue

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Naomi Osaka is taking over newsstands with the Tokyo Olympics right around the corner.

Osaka shared her Vogue Hong Kong cover on Sunday and first thing Monday morning, Sports Illustrated announced the tennis star as one of its three 2021 cover models. 

Osaka makes history on SI Swimsuit cover

The magazine issue's theme is "Opening Eyes, Speaking Truths and Changing Minds." Osaka is the first Black female athlete on the cover, SI said. She joins Megan Thee Stallion, the first rapper to land the cover, and Leyna Bloom, the first transgender cover star. 

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Sports Illustrated cited Osaka's "strength and power off the court," including her work to raise awareness about racial injustice, for her inclusion in the annual issue.

"What drew us to Naomi was her passion, strength and power geared toward consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health," Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor-in-chief MJ Day said, via SI. "She is wholeheartedly dedicated to achieving the impossible and has succeeded time and again. We are so honored to have one of the fiercest female trailblazers in history as one of our 2021 covers." 

Osaka, 23, was photographed in Malibu wearing pieces from the swimwear line she co-designed with Frankies Bikinis. In other photographs she's posing in pieces by Louis Vitton, which she joined in January as a brand ambassador.

She was named one of the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the Year for her activism. She's also a two-time entrant on Time's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The Swimsuit issues is on stands July 22, one day before the Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan. 

Osaka heading into Tokyo Olympics 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka, who is on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue, trains at the Tokyo Olympics facility on Monday. (REUTERS/Hannah Mckay)

Osaka will return to the tennis court in Tokyo, where she's representing her native Japan at the rescheduled Olympics games. The competition begins on Saturday. The order of play will not be available until the night before. 

The former No. 1-ranked world superstar withdrew from the French Open after she said she would not talk to any reporters during the tournament. She cited her mental health in withdrawing after the first round, and later pulled out of Wimbledon as well. 

The four-time Grand Slam champion is the subject of a three-part docuseries released on Netflix last week called "Naomi Osaka." It covers Osaka's life since her stunning 2018 victory over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open and provides a look into the mental pressures she's been under that ultimately led to her time away from the sport this spring. 

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