Amid the turmoil in Haiti and Afghanistan, Naomi Osaka has found herself reflecting upon her tennis career. In 2020, she was riding high and became the world’s highest-paid woman in sports for a second consecutive year, but in recent months she withdrew from the French Open citing mental health concerns and suffered a shocking loss to Marketa Vondrousova during the Tokyo Olympics.
All of this has given the four-time Grand Slam champion plenty to ponder on, and in speaking to the press on Wednesday following her win against Coco Gauff, Osaka expressed her gratitude for everything that tennis has afforded her.
“I guess seeing the state of the world, how everything is in Haiti, how everything is in Afghanistan right now is definitely really crazy,” she told reporters. “For me just to be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play is, I don’t know, like I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world.”
She also provided some insight into what led to her tearful exit earlier this week during a news conference on Monday.
“I was wondering why I was so affected, I guess. Like what made me not want to do media in the first place. And then I was thinking, I was wondering if I was scared because sometimes I would see headlines of players losing and then the headline the next day would be like ‘a collapse’ or ‘they’re not that great anymore.’”
She added, “So then I was thinking, me waking up every day, for me, I should feel like I’m winning, you know? Like, the choice to go out there and play, to go see fans, that people come out and watch me play, that itself is an accomplishment. I’m not sure when along the way I started desensitizing that. It started not being an accomplishment for me. So I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact.”
It sounds like Osaka is definitely undergoing a transformation of sorts, which, at 23 years old, is to be expected. But hopefully, as she continues to learn more about herself and experience even more triumph both on and off the court, she’ll become a better person for it.