Naomi Osaka: Pundits discuss French Open withdrawal
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Naomi Osaka has revealed that she won’t be away from tennis for long, after pulling out of Indian Wells and admitting she wanted a break following her US Open loss. The world No 8 lost to teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in the third round and later came to press to say she would be taking an extended break after falling out of love with the game, but has now done a u-turn on her comments.
Osaka was the defending champion at the US Open but lost in the third round from a set up to then-world No 73 Fernandez, who herself turned 19-years-old during the tournament and later made it all the way to the final.
After an on-court outburst that saw the Japanese tennis star throw her racket in anger, she apologised for her on-court behaviour before admitting the anxiety she felt during losses.
“Normally I feel like I like challenges, but recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way and I feel like you can feel that,” the 23-year-old admitted after saying sorry for her reaction during the match.
“I’m not really sure why it happens the way it happens now. But yeah, that’s basically why. You could kind of see that, I was kind of like a little kid.”
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Fighting back tears, Osaka admitted she would be taking an extended break from tennis after losing her joy for the game, continuing: “I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.
“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 then withdrew from the upcoming WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells, where she won her first title back in 2018, but has since revealed that she will be returning to the tour “soon” after having a change of heart.
“For sure I love the sport,” Osaka admitted, speaking on HBO’s The Shop.
The four-time Grand Slam champion appeared to go back on her comments from just weeks ago, admitting she would be happy to be back on court regardless of the result.
She continued: “I know I’m gonna play again, probably soon because I kind of have that itch again.
“But it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I’d just have the joy of being back on the court. Just to, like, you know, that I’m doing it for myself.”
Acknowledging she had quickly changed her tune since her tearful US Open press conference, Osaka admitted her brief break from tennis had brought back her passion for the sport.
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It comes after the former world No 1 withdrew from Roland Garros and Wimbledon earlier this year, citing her mental health and admitting she had suffered with bouts of depression throughout her career.
Ahead of the clay-court Major, Osaka announced she would not be attending press conferences and was happy to pay fines as sanction, but when the Grand Slams threatened her she withdrew ahead of her second-round and also pulled out of Wimbledon.
After finding her love for playing once again, she spoke of the struggles she faced in recent months, adding: “I started to feel like that power was being taken away from me. And the way that I felt, like, I wasn’t playing to make myself happy and I was more concerned about … what would people say about me.
“I used to love the competition and just being competitive. Like if I were to play a long match, the longer it was the more fun it was for me. And then I just started to feel—recently—the longer it was the more stressed out I became. But I just needed a break to go within myself.”
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