Naomi Osaka has decided to “take a break” from competitive tennis — and we completely understand why.
The 23-year-old, who represents Japan, had a rough match against 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez on Friday at the US Open. The No. 3 seed player lost 5-7, 6-7 (2), 6-4 to Fernandez, an unseeded player from Canada.
“I guess we’re all dealing with some stuff, but I know that I’m dealing with some stuff,” Osaka said in a post-match interview.
The tennis pro continued, “I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad.”
“I don’t think that’s normal,” she said before getting emotional.
The moderator closed off questions, but Osaka insisted that she finish expressing how she was feeling.
Osaka admitted, “I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.”
Through tears, she told reporters, “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
During the match, Osaka — who won the women’s singles titles in both 2018 and 2020 — repeatedly slammed her racquet in frustration.
When asked about why she lost her composure, the 23-year-old said, “I’m really sorry about that. I’m not really sure why.”
“I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point,” she continued, adding, “normally, I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way.”
Osaka added, “I’m not really sure why it happens the way it happens now.”
“I was kind of like a little kid,” she said in response to her on-court behavior.
The No. 3 seed appeared confident going into the competition, telling the tournament, “It’s an incredible energy. There’s going to be a crowd this year. I’m honestly just excited to be here. I really love New York, and hopefully I stay for the full two weeks.”
Leading up to the US Open, Osaka had been very candid about her struggles with her mental health.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open in May, citing anxiety surrounding media interviews and confirming that she’d been facing depression since winning the US Open in 2018. The next month, she then withdrew from Wimbledon to take “personal time” before competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, where she fell in the third round.
Ahead of the competition, she told reporters at the US Open that she’s trying to value her performance over winning.
“I do know that I tell people that I’m a perfectionist. I think for me something that’s less than perfection, even though it might be something great, is a disappointment,” she said. “I don’t really think that’s a healthy way of thinking… something that I really wanted to change.”
Osaka continued, “In this tournament, I just want to be happy with knowing that I did my best and knowing that even though I didn’t play perfect I was able to win a match in two sets. Or if I have to battle, play a match in three sets, know that I made a couple of mistakes, but it’s okay at the end of the day because I’ll learn from the matches that I’ll keep playing.”
About her mindset, Osaka added, “It’s not really a tournament thing, it’s more like a life thing. I hope I can keep this mindset throughout my life going forward.”
Take all the time you need, Naomi.
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