Naomi Osaka 4R interview

Interviews

Q. You already this year have won more matches when losing the first set than you did all of last year. What's the difference in being able to overcome that deficit?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me is the belief. I think I believe in myself more this year than I have last year. Like in Brisbane, I played the same sort of match, like, I lost the first set and I managed to win again. And it was against the same player. So I think just having that experience.

Q. Now do you have to figure out how to not lose first sets? Is the slow start problematic for you at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I mean, technically I'm supposed to be good at starting matches. I think I have a pretty good record winning the first set and then winning the match.

I just feel like I have played two really great players over the past few days, and, I don't know, I just have to adjust to that feeling of being overwhelmed a little bit.

Q. How do you feel about the atmosphere, Australian Open in general? This tournament is much more like, kind of like music festival rather than just conventional sporting event, having fans, more fans who want to relax and enjoy watching sports even outside of the stadium or court. How do you enjoy this kind of festival atmosphere?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I haven't really walked around the grounds, so I'm not really sure what the fan experience is like.

But I do know that every time I play my match, everyone is super engaged, I think. There is cheering and also a great number of Japanese fans.

So I don't know. I really love playing in this tournament.

Q. From the first time we saw you, people were really shocked by your serve and forehand and how huge you hit the ball. Over the past year, as you have talked about, you have kind of evolved into an all-court player, defense and stuff. Seems natural. Does it feel as natural as it seems for us?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I feel like I have always had the ability to try to rally (smiling). It's just it's hard for me when I feel like I have an opportunity to hit the ball. Like, for me today, I feel like during the first set, I might have tried to overhit or she was returning a lot of balls. So I thought I had to go for more than I did.

In the second and third set, I calmed down and I tried to think that I should play within my boundaries. So, yeah, it is a little bit natural, but unnatural at the same time.

Q. I have seven pages of the game statistics. It was very even, your game. She had an extraordinary first set. Tell us what is in your mind when you sit for the break between the first and second set. What's going in your mind and how you are planning the rest of the game?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, during the break I was thinking, like, Oh, man, like, I really just lost that set.

And then after that, like, disappointment. I just feel like I have to buckle down and try to do whatever I can, whatever is in my power to play well. And even if I don't win, I just want to try my best during every point. That was my mentality between the break.

Q. This tournament is a little different how they do it on TV and they have a lot of cameras in the hallways and things, arena. I'm curious, how conscious are you of being on camera or on TV at any moment you're in those areas?
NAOMI OSAKA: Now that you said it, I guess I will be very conscious (smiling). I just thought they had that one camera, like, where they call everyone. I thought that was the only one. Okay.

Great. You know what? Thank you. Because then I won't do anything that's, like, bad.

Q. It was a while ago, but during the off-season, you went to Haiti. There were some lovely pictures. What was it like to go there? What were your feelings?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I felt very lucky to be able to go, because it kind of fit perfectly during my off-season schedule. I wasn't really sure if I had time.

For me, it's a very humbling experience to go back, because you see so many people that they don't have much, and then you go back to your house and everything that you take for granted you start appreciating it more.

For me, I feel like, because I went to Haiti the first time two years ago, like, last year. And then I started playing well, I think, because I started appreciating everything and I didn't want to complain about anything. Because when you go there and you see people, like, literally, they have to walk miles for water and it's just like, Why are you complaining about your life?

Yeah, for me, I felt very grateful to go there, because I go to Japan a lot, but I haven't really gone to Haiti as much.

Q. Just looking ahead to Svitolina in the quarterfinals, can you talk about how you think she's been playing the last four months or so? And just what the particular challenges are. How different is that to playing Sevastova and Su-Wei?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I know she played well at the end of the year, she won the WTA Finals. Personally, I was really happy for her, because I know that everyone was sort of writing her off, because she wasn't doing well leading up to that. And I know she's playing well again here, because I'm going to play her and she's still here.

Definitely, I have played her multiple times now, and I know she's a very consistent player and when she has the chance she does like to attack. I think playing her is going to be very difficult for me.

Comparing to other players, I can't really do that, because Sevastova, she slices a lot. I don't think Svitolina slices as much as her. And Su-Wei is completely different from anyone I have ever played. So it's kind of impossible to compare them.

Q. You played Svitolina three years ago here when you made the third round the first time. What do you remember about that match, if anything, because it was sort of your big Grand Slam arrival?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I forgot about that. For me, the most recent time was in Dubai. So that's all I can remember. And also, we practiced in New York. Those are the two things that are the freshest in my memory.

I mean, I guess we were both young three years ago compared to now, so it's quite different.

Q. In your on-court interview, you were saying that when you go out here, like, nobody's really sort of recognizing you or rushing you for selfies or anything like that. What's it like when you go out in Japan, your most recent visit?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I didn't really walk outside (smiling). I just went in the car and stuff. Like, I wasn't really walking around. When I did, I went at night and had a wig on (smiling). That's, like -- I don't know, like, I wanted to try to do that. For me, it was very fun.

Q. Where did you get the wig?
NAOMI OSAKA: I got it from my sister. She was, like, You know what you should do? You should bring this wig and if you want to walk around, just throw it on and put on some sunglasses.

I personally think she was making it a bigger deal than it had to be. Honestly, I feel like people don't look at other people when they're walking around. I get that I'm tan and I would stand out a little bit in Japan. I think the only way people would really care is if I'm wearing some sort of athletic, like, if I was walking around with my tennis racquet. You know, other than that, I don't think people really care too much.

Q. Just going back to my question before, about the cameras and people seeing you around, why do you think people don't care about you and what you're doing?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know how to answer that question. I don't know. Because no one really says anything. Like, I look at someone, and then they just, like, walk away or something. Maybe I shouldn't be looking at them. I don't know.

It's not, for me – okay. I'm going to say this. For me, I feel like people that are famous like that, I feel kind of bad for them, because it's, like, you can never really truly enjoy going outside and stuff. So, for me, I feel kind of lucky that I'm unknown.

What was that eye thing you did just now?

Q. I don't know if I agree you're unknown anymore.
NAOMI OSAKA: I'm a ghost. You don't see me (smiling).

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, to reach the quarterfinals here of course I'm very happy. A little part of me is relieved, because I have never reached the quarterfinals of a tournament, like, a Grand Slam aside from New York.

So definitely this was one of my goals. I'm going to keep trying to focus on the next round and the next match. Yeah, today was really tight. I think she played really well, and we honestly have the toughest matches whenever we play each other. I think our games are two completely different things. So I hope it's entertaining to watch.

Yeah, I was just really nervous in the first set, and also, like towards the end of the third. So I think it showed because, like, people were talking about it.

Yeah, I mean, for me, mature I think is accepting when things don't go your way. It's one of the biggest things for me I think I don't do that well. I tend to complain a little bit, and I'm trying to fix that. I feel like it's a big problem.

But also, outside of tennis, I think I don't really have to deal with the things that I guess normal people have to deal with. Outside of the court too my maturity level isn't that big. Like, I don't have the biggest responsibilities. I just play tennis, and that's basically it. On and off the court, definitely I think I need to improve that.

Yeah, I mean, definitely I think my training during off-season helped a lot. Abdul really helped me with letting me sort of believe in the fact that I can play long matches, and I'm okay with that because I don't really get tired.

Yeah, I don't really remember points when I play, so I'm not really sure exactly what I was thinking, but I do know whenever I try to serve it's not to start a rally. It's to ace the person or get them in a really bad position. So if you're talking about a long game, definitely every serve that I play, I try to go for a winner or an ace.

Yeah, I mean, for me, today wasn't the best dropshot day. I think I hit two. They weren't that great, but she didn't move forward. So I was glad about that. But I think I played better dropshots maybe in my first or second match. I think it's something that I need to improve.