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Osaka on Roland-Garros: “There are a lot of things I learned to do better”

The defending champion seemed relaxed as she discussed the lessons learned from her French Open withdrawal

Naomi Osaka at Cincinnati in 2021 Naomi Osaka at Cincinnati in 2021

Naomi Osaka was back front and centre at the US Open on Friday, the Japanese looking more relaxed than of late as she discussed her hopes for the defence of her title and reflected on the past few months.

Osaka’s announcement that she would not be doing her press conferences at Roland-Garros – due to mental health reasons, as she later revealed – kick-started a tumultuous couple of months for the Japanese, who began the year in such brilliant fashion by winning her fourth Grand Slam title with a second Australian Open crown.

Honestly, I feel like there’s a lot of things that I did wrong in that moment, but I’m also the type of person that’s very in the moment,” she told reporters at Flushing Meadows on Friday.

“Like, whatever I feel, I’ll say it or do it. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I think there’s a lot of things that I learned to do better. Of course, I don’t feel the same situation will happen again. I would say (I would) maybe think it through a bit more in the way that, like, I didn’t know how big of a deal it would become.”

Osaka : “I’m pretty happy with how I’m playing”

The 23-year-old skipped Wimbledon as she took some time away and though she returned at the Olympics, where she had the honour of lighting the cauldron in Tokyo, she goes into the US Open short on matches, not quite knowing how her game is for the final slam of the year.

“I know I haven’t played that many matches,” she said. “I know that I haven’t even gotten to a quarter-final. Actually, I feel pretty happy with how I’m playing. Like, I thought I played two really tough matches in Cincinnati. The girl that I lost to, she played really well. I didn’t play her before, so I had no information on her.

“It’s like one of those things where you do have to have a match rhythm. Of course, I played literally no tournaments before that match. I feel pretty confident with where I am right now. Of course I’m not, like, declaring that I’ll do amazing here. For me, I’m the one-match-at-a-time like person. Yeah, hopefully it will work out in the end.”

Like most of the players, Osaka said she was happy to be playing in front of a full stadium again and also to have the media back in person, with fully-vaccinated journalists allowed into the main interview room at Flushing Meadows.

“I would say definitely it feels better to see the person,” she said. “For me, I’m the type that if I get comfortable enough, I’ll start making jokes and stuff. It’s really off-putting just to be seated in front of a screen. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I feel, like, a lot of nerves. But it feels much better to be talking to a human.”

“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. But overall, I think even more than just, like, being here for the tournament, I’m just happy to be here in general, so… it’s cool.”

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