Naomi Osaka 3R interview

Interviews

Q. You must have been thrilled at how you responded when you were in deep trouble there.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, of course I'm happy with how I fought. For me, that's, like, one of the biggest things I always thought I could improve, because it sort of seems like before I would accept defeat in a way, and then this time I just wanted to learn from the last match that I played in Brisbane.

Q. There was a moment when you were down in the second set and you almost seemed to laugh to yourself after one point you lost. Things started going your way kind of quickly after that. I don't know if you were able to release some tension or something happened that you were able to just sort of relax from that point or just accepted that she's a crazy player doing crazy things and you were out there doing what you can.
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, it was a moment like I walked into the match knowing that she was going to do a lot of strange things, no offense (smiling). But she was just playing so well, and I think I got overwhelmed. And then early in the second set I tried doing things that I know isn't necessarily my game, like I was trying to hit higher balls. I don't even practice doing that. So it felt like such a waste.

Then after a while, I just started thinking that I'm in a Grand Slam. I shouldn't be sad, I'm playing against a really great player, so I should just enjoy my time and try and put all my energy into doing the best that I can on every point.

I think that's why I laughed.

Q. What makes her a difficult opponent?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, she hits very different from everyone else. I can never really tell where she's going to put the ball. She hits down the line and then hits a weird crosscourt. It's very, very hard to have a rally with her.

Q. How much did the satisfaction of pulling out that one match in Brisbane against Sevastova maybe play into today's match, similar-ish opponents, but did that help at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, of course it helped because I think last year I didn't have a good record of winning after losing the first set. So definitely I was thinking about that match a little bit during today.

So I think the more matches that I play like this, the tougher ones, then maybe as I go on it won't seem as hard.

Q. The word that people use over and over again to describe Su-Wei's game is "crazy." For someone who is not maybe super oriented with what's going on, what is it that messes with people about her?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me, today was just – she didn't miss. She ran everything down. I don't know. Like, I just felt like she was playing too good, and I had to wait. For me, it's a bit difficult to do that, because my patience isn't so great on that side, to be honest.

But I just felt like I had to trust – like, I did a lot of off-season training like running, so I just felt like I had to trust my athleticism, in a way.

Q. I wondered, you joked with the crowd a little bit, and said, Did I smash my record? Was that an indication maybe you wish you hadn't done it or was it a big wakeup thing during the match that it helped?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, of course I would have preferred not to do that, but for me, I tend to keep a lot of things bottled up. I just felt like in that moment sort of releasing it was easier than just keeping it inside, and then maybe I would have dwelled on it for longer.

So of course I would have preferred not to do that, and I'm really sorry that I did, but hopefully I'll learn from that moment.

Q. Wondering about the scheduling. Were you surprised you weren't put on center court this morning as a Grand Slam champion and the players who were on center court haven't won any Grand Slams?
NAOMI OSAKA: Not really. I'm good if they put me on Court 3, 2, I'll just play wherever they put me.

Q. In practice do you ever try to hit a shot like Su-Wei does, just to see what it's like? Can you bring yourself to try on that hat for a while and slice away, or...
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I have been practicing dropshots, if that counts, but I would have to, like, change my grip, I think, to hit like she does, you know.

Yeah, I have never really seen anyone hit that way, so...

Q. When you took that fall towards the end of the second set, was that the chair who yelled to you? And also, does that help relax you to make a joke like that? You said, no, and...
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, that's just funny to me. He was like, Naomi, are you okay? I mean, I was, but I wanted to see his reaction if I said no (smiling).

Q. You made the fourth round here last year. Different scenario this year, with your ranking and seeding now. Do you feel any extra pressure that comes with all that?
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, I don't feel pressure. I feel nerves. Like, if that makes sense.

I felt really nervous in the first round, but after that, I felt really good. I have been playing really well, so for me, Grand Slams are more of an exciting time.

I think there is the most attention during Grand Slams, and more people come out than anywhere else. So definitely it makes me really happy. I try to sort of channel that in my tennis.

Q. You play Sevastova next, who we already mentioned. She finished her match. Can you talk and preview through that match? What do you think you take out of this match going forward?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I have played her like two weeks ago in Brisbane. That match was very tough. She's a really great player. I want to say I think we played three times now, so we know each other's games quite well.

Man, sorry. Yeah, I mean, I know for sure that match is going to be hard. I played three sets against her last time and she beat me in straight sets the time before that. So definitely it's going to be a really big fight for me.

Q. What do you do between now and the next match? Do you need to recover or unplug and take your mind off tennis for a bit?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, for me, when it's Grand Slam time, I like to watch all the matches, so I will keep the TV on and keep switching between channels. So I don't necessarily unplug from tennis. I think that's a little bit hard to do.

So for me, I embrace it a little bit, but at the same time, I watch a lot of YouTube and Netflix, too.

Q. I know you train at Chris Evert's when you're at home. What's your relationship like with her? Is it just a hi, or do you sit around and chat with her?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, she's very nice. Whenever I do see her, she always comes up and says a lot of encouraging words so I'm really grateful for her.

Q. What does she share?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know. If it's a secret... I mean, one of the biggest things, before I won the US Open or Indian Wells, she always told – not told me, but like advised me to be more consistent. This is back when I was hitting everything, you know, like a few weeks ago -- no, just kidding (smiling).

But, yeah, I mean, for me it's a bit more – not that I'm, like, ragging on Sascha, but it's a bit more -- it feels like I should listen to her more, in a way, because -- oh, I'm going to get so much hate. You know, because I have seen what she did, and she's also played. So it's a little bit more believable.

(Naomi's answers to Japanese questions.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me I didn't even know that it was Love-40. I did know it was 4-1, though. But I just thought – I think it was just one break, so I was just thinking that I have to break her no matter what. Don't let her get a game after this moment, because I can't afford to lose any more games.

Yeah, I mean, it's tough. I know she plays really well against the high-ranked players. Especially in Grand Slams. I was watching when she played Halep in Wimbledon. So I already knew going in that she's, like, really hard to play against. Yeah, for me, it was just -- it felt like a process throughout the entire match. I think in the beginning I was very impatient, and I was a bit surprised that she moved so well, to be honest. She literally hit no unforced errors. For me, I just felt like I had to keep waiting and eventually I had my chance.

Yeah, I mean, I hit the high balls because I was thinking with the way that her stroke is, it's possible that she's very uncomfortable with it. And I think she is, but I'm not good at hitting those types of balls. I think you have to hit harder and more topspin. But mine were just flat and soft and she just went in after those. So definitely I think a player that's good in that type of play, too, could be effective. But for me, that was like wasted game, in a way.

No, I mean, I don't really think too much about my serves or like the service speed for me. What concerns me more is percentage. For me, speed is not really a big factor if you're able to place it well. But, yeah, that wasn't really a big thing. But today the sun was very tough to play. I think it was also tough for her, too.

Yeah, I mean, of course it gives me confidence to be able to win like this. I mean, I was two games from losing the match, so I think being able to come back and fight is something that I have been attempting to do for a while, but I haven't really been able to grasp, like, the emotions to do it. So winning like this gives me confidence.