Naomi Osaka Practice session

Naomi Osaka 12-01-19 interview

Interviews

Q. How do you feel ahead of this tournament, how ready? How are the courts playing for you?
NAOMI OSAKA: Uhm, yeah, I mean, for me, I'm happy every time I come here because it's the first slam that I got into the main draw through quallies. It holds a lot of special memories. Plus it's hard court, which is my favorite surface. I feel really good practicing here.

Q. Does it feel different coming to a slam having just won the most recent slam? Do you have a different attitude? Do you feel you're a different player in either your mind or in the mind of the fans?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I mean, I feel the same (smiling). I think it would be bad if I changed in, like, three months. Yeah, I don't really feel that much different. I think one of the biggest things is that I go into the main media room now, so that's changed (laughter).

Q. Has your life changed much since you won the US Open?
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, no, not really. I feel like maybe more people want to take pictures. But for the most part I've just been doing the same things, which are, like, practicing, going to the gym, so...

Q. It's obviously a very open women's tournament, as has become normal now. Do you think in the locker room most players will still see Serena as the player to beat?
NAOMI OSAKA: I'm pretty sure. But there's, like, a group of players that I think everyone thinks is very difficult to play against, especially in Grand Slams.For me, you're going to have to ask someone else because I don't talk to people, so I wouldn't know what they're thinking (smiling). If you want to hear the gossip, like, I'm not the one. I'm sorry.

Q. Did you see Andy Murray's press conference or read anything about it, and what was your reaction to it? I know you got to practice with him.
NAOMI OSAKA: At first, I couldn't really believe it because I feel like I've been watching him for so long. It's kind of weird when people announce that they're going to retire.

For me, I felt really sad because I've never really talked to him before Brisbane, right? Then we started talking. He was so nice. Like, he's a super nice person. Now I just feel like I lost – he's not a friend - but I lost someone that could be a friend. I know he's also, like, motivated so many people. That was kind of sad.

Q. Over the last year I'm sure you spoke to a lot of people after winning titles. Has that changed you in any way? Has that made you more open? As you said before, you still don't really talk to people.NAOMI OSAKA: Do you think I've changed? Because I know you've seen me throughout the year.

Q. I don't know how you are privately with people. In press, I think you're more open, more comfortable.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, in press I feel comfortable because I'm being asked questions. But you know when you have to do small talk, like, Hello, how are you? After that, I don't know what to do (smiling).

Q. What do you normally do then?
NAOMI OSAKA: I go, Uhm, okay, then I walk away (laughter). But, yeah, I mean, I feel like I'm more comfortable talking to people. I've sort of been put in the position that I have to. It's not something I can avoid any more. But, yeah, next time I walk into the press room, I'm going to be like, What's up (laughter)?

Q. You're pretty engaging and funny. Everybody seems to enjoy everything you say. You come up with smart things. Why do you think there's that disconnect that you feel you don't know what to say?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't want to sound rude to you guys, right? But, like, when I sit here, it's like you guys aren't real people (smiling).

Q. What are we?
NAOMI OSAKA: It's, like, I don't know. If I'm talking to someone one-on-one, it just stresses me out because if I tell you a joke, 50/50 chance at least three of you are going to laugh. I don't know if it's a pity laugh, but at least it's a laugh, right?

If it's one-on-one, and that person doesn't laugh, like, I just want to leave, so... Yeah, I mean, that's sort of the reason why I don't come across that way to people.

Q. The last slam you were at, you had probably different expectations. You were still trying to get past that round of 16, quarterfinal phase. Coming into the next slam after New York, how different are the expectations? What are the benchmarks of a successful major for you?
NAOMI OSAKA: 
That's a really good question. I mean, I feel like, of course, I have to take it one step at a time. No one wants to lose in the first round of a slam, I think. That would be my immediate goal.

From there, I've been in the third round 100 million times already. That would be my next goal. Hopefully semis after that. Then I can think about, like, the finals and winning.

There's so many good players in this draw, I know that everyone wants to win this tournament. My first, immediate thought isn't to win.

Q. In the off-season, what were your goals for the off-season, not just in terms of your game, but mentally grasping everything that happened to you last year? Did you allow yourself to think about it or not?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I've thought about it. But at the same time for me one of my biggest goals is to be more mature, like to mature as a person. And I feel like in a way I am, but in other parts I'm very, like, three years old mentality, you know?

I feel like it's just leveling that out is one of my biggest goals I had during the off-season. To be honest, I had a notebook, so every night before bed I would write jokes so I can present them to you guys.

Q. Give us one now.
NAOMI OSAKA:  That was a joke, I'm sorry (laughter).

Q. There's a lot of excitement about Ash Barty, the tennis she's playing. What have you made of her form?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, she's playing the finals in Sydney, right?

Q. Yes.
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I think she plays really amazing. I had the chance to play her here last year. You guys seem to really love her and I think that's great,
because, like, you guys are hosting one of the Grand Slams. Of course, it's really great to have a player that you can back. I'm not sure, I played her twice, I think. Three times actually. She won twice, and I only won once. So, of course, she's really nice.

To be honest, it stresses me out that you're asking me this because someone else already asked me this. I said, Of course, she's a great player. Now people are making fun of me. But, like, people I know. I don't know where I'm going with this.

Q. Why are they making fun of you?
NAOMI OSAKA: I said she's really amazing and stuff, right? So I think everyone thought I was being sarcastic, which I'm not, because she's actually really amazing. Like, she's really talented. I think they thought I was being sarcastic because I really never say that someone's good, so...

Q. You said no one likes losing the first round. Your first opponent is Magda from Poland. She said she remembers your match in Washington. She was quite upset that she defeated you after the US Open. Do you have some thoughts about her? What do you think about her tennis? She said she improved a lot, worked hard. What will this match be for you?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I remember that match, too. It was the first match of my three-match losing streak. Yeah, I thought that she played really well. She's a very consistent player. She doesn't really miss balls.

At the time it was sort of me that was making a lot of unforced errors. I think that's something that I need to keep in mind the next time I play her, which is on Tuesday. So, yeah, I feel like I have to practice a lot of returns and stuff.

THE MODERATOR: 
Questions in Japanese, please.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)
NAOMI OSAKA: How do I say? I didn't think about winning, you know? Like, I just thought about winning as a whole as opposed to one match at a time. Every time that I do well in a tournament, I think about, like, one match at a time. But when I was in Brisbane, I just thought about winning, the tournament, instead of focusing on every match.

Because I really wanted to win (laughter). Yeah, I mean, I feel like -- it was the first match of the year, right? Not the first match, but the first tournament. I've never really started a year, like, winning something. I thought that coming off of the off-season, I was practicing really well, so I really wanted
to just do well in Brisbane.

I went to the semis. I didn't think about the semis, I just thought about the finals. I think that was the problem I had, yeah.

I'll speak in English, because it's easier. I'm sorry. About the losing weight question, because I want to be faster. It's not for looks or anything. I feel like it helps me play better. Like, I get to the ball faster, and I'm not as sore.

I mean, I feel like I've been practicing a lot of just, like, forehands and backhands, not necessarily serving a lot or returning a lot. I think just mainly strokes, like groundstrokes.