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‘I’m being more selfish – in a good way!’ Relaxed Osaka playing with smile at the Happy Slam

The Japanese star is chasing a defence of her title and a fifth Grand Slam – and seems very happy about it

Naomi Osaka Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Colombia’s Maria Camila Osorio (Panoramic)

Australian Open 2022 | Draw | Order of play 

After a 2021 in which her troubles were noted and well publicised, it was a happy Naomi Osaka who took the court as defending champion at the Australian Open on Monday.

Seeded 13th, she dismissed Maria Osario Serrano 6-3, 6-3, and even had time to crack a joke or two in press afterwards. The 24-year-old had said last year that the trials of a press conference made her anxious; her demeanour in Melbourne seemed much more relaxed.

It perhaps reflected her mood when she wrote – and quickly deleted – a post on Instagram that she did not care what people thought about her. She was asked about it in press, and wryly replied: “Dang, you saw that? I deleted it like three minutes after.”

Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during the first round of the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament against Camila Osorio of Colombia (Credit Image: © Rob Prange/AFP7 via ZUMA Press Wire)
  • Women’s seeds who lost on Monday at the Australian Open (1st round) : Kenin (11), Gauff (18).
  • Seeds who won on Monday at the Australian Open (1st round) : Barty (1), Krejcikova (4),  Sakkari (5), Badosa, (8), Bencic (12), Osaka (13), Svitolina (15), Pegula (21), Azarenka (24), Ostapenko (26), Kudermetova (28), Giorgi (30), Sorribes Tormo (32)

Osaka explained her reasoning for writing it in the first place.

“Yeah, I definitely feel like in my point of my career, it’s not like long or anything, but I’ve kind of been weighed down too much of trying to prove myself and blah, blah, blah. You guys have seen me through that entire phase.

“I just want to have fun, first of all. I can’t expect myself to win every match, but I do expect myself to have fun and challenge myself.”

Osaka – I feel more comfortable in my skin

As a two-time Melbourne champion, this is one tournament where Osaka should definitely feel on safe ground. And the contrast between her mood this week and the way she felt in the middle of last year is already marked.

“I would say I feel more comfortable in my skin, if that makes sense – like there’s always like the human nature to feel uneasy, to want to like please everyone and stuff like that,” she explained.

“I feel like there was a time after French Open [2021] where I felt like everyone was judging me and I couldn’t go outside without thinking that everyone around me was — I don’t know. It feels a bit weird when you go into a stadium to play and you’re kind of concerned what everyone’s gaze means.

“I’m not sure if I explained that well. Basically right now I’m trying to learn how to be more selfish but in a positive way.”

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