Naomi Osaka says she felt “ungrateful” for not being able to appreciate her success at times over the last year. The world’s number two best was speaking after defeating American teenager Coco Gauff on Wednesday at the Cincinnati Open.
She also discussed her reasons for withdrawing from the French Open in May, after claiming on the eve of the tournament that speaking to the media was causing her mental health problems.
She said, “I wonder what affected me… made me not want to do media? I’m wondering if I was scared because sometimes I would see headlines of players losing and then the headline the next day would be like a collapse or they’re not that great anymore.”
“The choice to go out there and play, to go see fans, the people that are coming out and watching you play, that itself is an accomplishment and I’m not sure when along the way I started desensitizing that. It started not being an accomplishment for me so I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact.”
The 23-year-old Japanese tennis star also withdrew from Wimbledon to take a break from tennis after suffering from anxiety and depression. She returned to the Olympics in her home city of Tokyo, where she lit the flame at the opening ceremony before losing in the third round.
Cincinnati is her first tournament since Tokyo, and she shed a tear during her first news conference since the controversy surrounding her refusal to speak to the media at Roland Garros. She came back from a set and a break down to defeat 17-year-old Gauff 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the second round on Wednesday.
“I think definitely this whole Covid thing was really stressful with the bubbles and not seeing people and not having the interactions.
“But seeing the state of the world, how everything is in Haiti [her father’s homeland, which has been hit by an earthquake and tropical storm in recent days] and Afghanistan right now is definitely really crazy.
“And for me to just be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play is… I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world.”
Naomi Osaka will play against Swiss Jill Teichmann for a spot in the quarter-finals.