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Naomi Osaka, on working with a therapist – ‘I realise how helpful it is’

Naomi Osaka has started to work with a therapist after her difficult experience with a heckler at Indian Wells two weeks ago. She was encouraged to do so by her sister and her coach.

Naomi Osaka 2022 Miami Open Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium Image Credit: Zuma / Panoramic

After being jeered by a heckler during her loss to Veronika Kudermetova in her second-round match at the BNP Paribas Open, a clearly disturbed Naomi Osaka left the court in tears. Two weeks later the four-time Grand Slam champion is feeling much better in Miami, thanks to her decision to begin working with a therapist.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I finally started talking to a therapist after Indian Wells,” Osaka said during her press conference on Wednesday, after defeating Astra Sharma, 6-3, 6-4, She then added, sarcastically: “It only took like a year after French Open.”

Osaka told reporters that she has been reluctant to hire the services of a therapist in the past because she tends to internalise her problems and tries to solve many of her problems without outside help. She said her sister, Mari, and her coach, Wim Fissette, both encouraged her to start down a new path after her difficult experience at Indian Wells.

“My sister seemed very concerned for me,” Osaka recalled. “I feel like I’ve been trying a lot of different things because I tend to internalise things, and I also want to do everything by myself. Wim kind of put it in a really good way. He was like, ‘You hire a coach for tennis, for fitness. The mind is such a big thing. If you can get a professional to help you out .5 percent, that alone is worth it.'”

Not ready to travel with sports psychologist – yet

Osaka was asked if she was thinking about taking a page from Iga Swiatek and Daria Abramowicz’s playbook by adding a psychologist to her team full-time. She admitted that she had not thought it through yet.

“I’m quite new to this,” she said. “I would be lying if I said I know exactly the role that they would play. But for now I feel like it helps me out a lot. I’m just going to keep moving forward with that, knowing the feelings that I have towards, like, wanting to improve that part of my life or that part of my head space. I think, yeah, this person would be a part of my team, and they would be quite important.”

Swiatek was asked last week at Indian Wells if players on tour have been curious about her current setup. The second-ranked Pole has been travelling with sports psychologist Daria Abramowicz for several years to great effect, but says she was fortunate to find a personality that she meshed with perfectly. Not all player-psychologist relationships are built to go on the road, and that’s why we don’t see it more on tour – there is also the cost to consider.

“Everybody has their own team and their own ways to get better,” Swiatek said. “Yeah, some of my friends are curious. I think it’s pretty convenient for me that I found the proper person because it’s not that easy. I can see that many people are, like, searching but it’s really not that easy to get right people around you.

“I think I’m really lucky that I have such a good psychologist and coach as well, conditioning coach, because, yeah, I think I have some kind of luck to get good people around me.”

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