On Monday, tennis star Naomi Osaka made quick work of her second-round opponent and shared thoughts about her current mental state.
The Japanese born, American raised tennis player is competing for her home country of Japan in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She took some time off previous to the international sporting event to focus on her mental health. Osaka withdrew from the French Open before skipping Wimbledon altogether and taking the last two months off. However, she seems to be rested, refreshed, and ready to go in Tokyo so far.
In the opening round, Osaka beat China’s 52nd-ranked Saisai Zheng in straight sets. Additionally, earlier today she defeated Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic in two sets (6-3, 6-2). The 23-year-old with four grand slam titles to her name already said she felt nervous before the match. But her nerves subsided as she got more comfortable as the game went on.
“Honestly, I feel like I was a bit more nervous before the match,” Naomi Osaka told reporters, according to PEOPLE. “I felt a lot of butterflies, but I think as I started playing and feeling more comfortable. I knew that no matter what it would be a great match.”
The young tennis star has already won more titles than many players could ever dream of. But winning a gold medal in Tokyo would undeniably “mean a lot” to her.
“But I know it’s a process,” she added. “I know these are the best players in the world, and honestly I haven’t played in a while. So I’m trying to take it one notch at a time.”
On Tuesday, Naomi Osaka will face Markéta Vondroušová from the Czech Republic in her next Olympics matchup.
Naomi Osaka Withdraws from French Open, Takes Break from Tennis After Media Boycott Backlash
Previous to Naomi Osaka’s Olympics debut yesterday, she hadn’t played a tennis match since the first round of the French Open in May. The athlete refused to attend her post-match press conference in Paris, and received criticism for her absence. Following the backlash, she withdrew from the entire tournament.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Naomi Osaka wrote in a statement. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she added.
After opening up about her mental health, she also chose to sit out the next grand slam tournament at Wimbledon. As the Olympics approached, Osaka shared further details with Time magazine about her experience. In an essay for the publication, the tennis star said she felt pressure to reveal details about her mental state.
“In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms — frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me,” she wrote. “I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes.”