Naomi Osaka was defeated at the U.S. Open on Friday by unseeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez, ending the reigning champion’s title defense early.
As the Associated Press reports, the world’s third-ranked tennis star openly considered taking another break from the game during an emotional news conference after the loss. Osaka made headlines earlier this year when she opted to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon, citing a desire to focus on her mental health and spend more time with friends and family.
Per the AP, she and her agent had previously discussed the possibility of taking another break in private before speaking about it on Friday. ESPN reports that Osaka, 23, told reporters that a key reason for this possibility was the fact that tennis was no longer bringing her joy.
“I feel like for me recently, like, when I win, I don’t feel happy,” Osaka said. “I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal.”
Osaka, 23, began to cry and the moderator attempted to end the media session, but she said she wanted to continue.
“Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” Osaka said. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
The news conference was then abruptly finished.
Osaka’s loss to the 18-year-old Fernandez comes after she wrote on social media about how’s she’s working on improving her outlook on life and her career, saying in part that “your life is your own and you shouldn’t value yourself on other people’s standards.”
Not only is she correct about that, but this experience is a key representation of that outlook at work. By considering taking another break from tennis, she’s living her life the way she wants to live it, regardless of what sports pundits and armchair analysts have to say about it. Her U.S. Open loss doesn’t erase the fact that she’s still a four-time Grand Slam champion and at the age of 23 is already one of the best ever to play the sport.
When she does feel ready to return to competition, whenever that may be, it’ll be on her own terms. That’s the way it should be.
That’s the way we should all strive to live.