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Naomi Osaka reveals her goals for 2022: “To have fun on court and to never cry again in the press room”

With a new mindset and approach, Naomi Osaka seemed happier and more confident as she spoke to the media for the first time since her tearful exit at the US Open

Naomi Osaka, Melbourne, 2022 Naomi Osaka by © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

WTA Melbourne Summer Set 1 2022 | Draw Schedule

The last time Naomi Osaka faced the media after a match, the Japanese player broke down in tears following her third-round defeat at the US Open. On Tuesday, a much more confident and relaxed Osaka returned to the press room after winning her first-round match at WTA Melbourne Summer Set 1.

Playing for the first time in four months, Osaka shook off some rust in the second set to defeat French veteran Alize Cornet 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in just over two hours and later told the press that her goal for 2022 is to have more fun on the court and not to not cry in the press room.

“I only really have one major goal this year, and it’s completely unrelated to results and stuff like that,” she said. “For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun. I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could. Also I have a goal in the pressroom, that I’m never going to cry again, so hopefully that works out in my favour.

“I just feel like for me, I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that. And I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again because that’s the reason why I was playing in the first place.

“I’m trying this out. Of course I’m not sure if this is going to work out well. I guess I’ll let you know after this tournament.
For me, I think I’m just setting goals that I want to accomplish during the match because I feel like before I would go into a match, my only goal was to win. I didn’t really care about improving as a player. I thought that would just come naturally. I think this time around I’m setting mini goals so that I’m able to not focus too much on the win itself but how I’m improving as a player and how all the hours that I’m putting into practice is able to come into fruition.”

Osaka happy to be back in Melbourne

Melbourne has been a happy hunting ground for four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021. The world No 13 says she loves the vibe in Australia and always looks forward to kicking off the new season Down Under.

“I feel like whenever I come here, or come back here at the start of the year, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Everyone is super, super nice. The vibes here are really good. And I think that no one wants to start the year off bad, so of course my intention is to do well here. But you’re playing the best players in the world, and for me I also feel like I need to play matches right now. I haven’t played that many matches. Hopefully I get more into the groove of things”

I actually really thought I wasn’t going to play for most of this year

Naomi Osaka

Osaka added that she did not expect to return to the tour so early and had anticipated a much longer break for herself. But the world’s highest earning female athlete said it was the support of her team, family and friends that helped her decompress during her break.

“I would say what probably got me ready again was just talking to people. For me, I tend to internalise everything, and I think that might be just based on how I grew up. I didn’t really have that many friends, so I didn’t really talk to anyone in the first place. Then during the off-season I just hung out with my friends and talked to my family a lot. I felt like that was a way of decompressing the pressure I had on myself. Then I just slowly started to regain the feeling of love that I had towards the game. It’s not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling
just by constantly playing year after year since I was like — I started tennis when I was three years old, and I never
really took a break. Yeah, sometimes it’s just good to remember why you’re playing.

“Honestly, it was much shorter than I anticipated. I actually really thought I wasn’t going to play for most of this year. I think that I’m actually really – I don’t think ‘proud’ is the right word, but I’m really happy with myself that I love the sport that much because I literally said that I was unsure when I was going to play after the US Open, and I’m here right now, and that’s
what I did like two years ago. Honestly, I’m on the same schedule as I was, like this is a normal schedule for me.”

“I think the first few practices, they were for me really eye-opening because I kept telling myself I don’t have to practice if I don’t want to. I need to 100 percent be certain that this is what I want to do at this time, because if not, then it’s a waste of Yutaka’s time, my trainer, and Wim’s time, because they fly to me for us to be able to practice and they could be spending
time with their family. It was kind of like I had to really tell myself to be committed in that moment. And I thought it was really
like eye-opening. I felt like I have several goals that I want to accomplish this year, so I think maybe, maybe the off-season will pay off, but not so sure right now.”

Always one to share what’s on her mind, Osaka said she has overcomes the fear of getting back into the press room after her controversial decision to skip the mandatory press conferences at the French Open led to a major controversy, causing her to pull out of the event after her first round win and skip Wimbledon.

“In the very beginning, like right after everything happened at Roland-Garros, I was really scared to come back in here because I didn’t know like what the energy was going to be like. But I feel like the people that know me get what I mean,
and I feel like we kind of established like a trust and kind of like a friendship-ish. I think that I’m just going to keep being myself, and you can interpret it how you want to. That’s kind of how it’s been working out for us this whole time.”

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