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U.S. Open doubles champ raises social issues with shirt, words

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    Dutch tennis player Jean-Julien Rojer, left, talks with ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi as doubles partner Horia Tech, of Romania, listens, after the two won the doubles championship match against Marc Lopez, and Feliciano Lopez, of Spain after the doubles championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

NEW YORK >> Dutch tennis player Jean-Julien Rojer wore a shirt showing the Statue of Liberty while winning the U.S. Open men’s doubles championship today to send what he called a message about peace and freedom in the aftermath of last month’s violence at a rally of neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I just wanted to have the conversation going (by) promoting … freedom and justice, liberty, for everybody on gender issues, on racial issues, which we deal a lot with in this country,” said Rojer, who was born in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, and moved to Florida when he was 12 to work with a private coach.

“I feel in tennis we don’t say much about it, but this is just tennis,” Rojer said. “We deal with real life issues out there.”

Rojer and his doubles partner, Horia Tecau of Romania, won their first title at Flushing Meadows by beating the 11th-seeded Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

During the on-court trophy ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Rojer spoke about his yellow T-shirt with a black-and-white image of the Statue of Liberty and red, white and blue stripes across the chest. He said it’s part of a clothing line made by a friend of his.

“The idea came after the tragic incident in Charlottesville, and we came up with this line, promoting peace and freedom and liberty,” Rojer said. “Hopefully we’re moving in that direction. I’ve been here since I’m 12 years old and I’m happy they let me in and I got to do my job here. So hopefully we will create those opportunities for everybody.”

Tecau said that professional athletes should feel free to state their political views.

“It’s nice to send this message and spread it, because you have a lot of people that look up to you. Jules is an outspoken guy. You know, he’ll talk more than other players, but I think as role models for the generations that are behind us, the young generation, it’s important to see that, as well,” Tecau said. “We’re not just athletes competing, you know, for Slams and prize money and glory.”

Added Rojer, who was an All-American tennis player at UCLA: “It’s important that everybody do their job or do their part, and that’s how you make either change or progress, because we do it. And maybe I change five people’s minds, you know. It’s a step in the right direction. … But we all have a platform and we have to be conscious of our actions and respectful of each other.”

This is the second Grand Slam title for the 12th-seeded Tecau and Rojer, who also won Wimbledon in 2015.

They are currently on a 10-match winning streak, including a victory over top-seeded Henri Kontinen and John Peers in the U.S. Open semifinals.

“It’s tough when you get to these matches. Tension, expectations, everything around. People start calling you. Messages. But you just try to stay focused (on) one more match,” Tecau said. “That’s what we did so well towards the end of the tournament. Pushed each other to stay focused one more match and to execute.”

The two Lopezes, who are not related, won the 2016 French Open.

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