Naomi Osaka F interview

Interviews

Q. Apparently you're unable to win a slam without some drama. There was a drama with Serena and drama today with you having all the match points. How do you react to all this? Are you surprised?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't think it's drama. I had the match points on her serve, so she's supposed to hold her serve. She's one of the best players in the world, so I didn't think it was drama.

Like, we just played a third set. If you consider that drama, then...

Q. You weren't worried after you lost the second set? Everybody was thinking maybe she will think of it and it will be more difficult?
NAOMI OSAKA: I did think of it when I was playing the second set. The third set, it's like a fresh start, so...

Q. It was such a warm atmosphere tonight for both of you. Talk a little bit about the difference between how it felt in there tonight compared to how it felt in Flushing.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, you're probably asking this question because you already know. In New York, most of the crowd was for Serena. Here it felt like they were split a little bit.

Yeah, I mean, honestly when I was playing her, and I heard the crowd was for both of us, I was very happy. At the same time I was just trying to focus on playing the match.

Q. How difficult was it to refocus after the disappointment of the second set? How long did it take you to refocus?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, it didn't really take that long. I didn't have a choice on how long the break was. I don't know, like I felt like I didn't want to have any regrets. I think if I didn't regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried or something, so...

Q. From the outside, the moment of Li Na giving you the trophy seemed special. Can you reflect on that moment.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I didn't expect to see her there. At first I was very shocked. I wanted to cry a little bit, but I didn't want to cry on this, like, podium. So, yeah, I was really touched. I just felt really honored, I don't know, that she was giving me this trophy.

Q. You said winning the US Open was maybe bittersweet, not the happiest memory. How does it feel now to have your shining moment?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, now I'm just so tired. I don't know how anyone is awake right now. Maybe the next day I'll think about it more. But for me, I don't know, like I still feel very shocked. Like, I felt like the match wasn't completely done, but it was done, you know?

It's one of those moments where you're fighting so hard. When it's finally over, you're still in the state of, like, competitiveness, so...

Q. Were you actually getting emotional when you were walking off after the second set going toward the bathroom?
NAOMI OSAKA: Did you not see my tears (smiling)?

Q. Just trying to verify.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, you wanted to give me a little, like, hope?

Q. How did you recover from that? That could have been Brisbane all over again. You somehow righted yourself. How did you do that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I just thought to myself that this is my second time playing a final. I can't really act entitled. To be playing against one of the best players in the world, to lose a set, suddenly think that I'm so much better than her that that isn't a possibility...

Yeah, I wanted to enjoy my time here. Last year I lost in the fourth round. Now this year I was in the final, so I wanted to be happy about that, yeah, just basically have no regrets about today.

Q. You said on court that you looked at your notes before the thing, but you couldn't really remember. Is there anything you've remembered now that you would like to have said? Also confirm, do you live in Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I forgot to smile. I was told to smile and I didn't. I was panicking. Yeah, I'm going to be thinking about that for the rest of today (smiling).

And, yeah, it's confidential where I live (smiling).

Q. A year ago here you were ranked about 70, and hadn't been past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. Two major titles in a row, new No. 1. Does it feel to you that this has happened very, very quickly?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, to me, it doesn't. I guess looking from the outside, from your guys' view, it does. For me, every practice and every match that I've played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time.

But I'm aware of all the work that I put in. I know all the sacrifices that every player does to stay at this level. I mean, in my opinion, it didn't feel fast. It felt kind of long.

Q. Given the way the US Open finished, the scenes afterwards, how satisfying is it you could put up this trophy, actually have a celebration unlike last September? Public speaking, is that something you're going to get better at in the future?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I haven't celebrated yet. I mean, if you guys want to celebrate with me...

Public speaking? I don't know. I feel like in a way public speaking is some sort of talent. Like I know some people train to be able to be good at it. But then I just don't feel like it lacks, like, the genuine -- like, there's something that feels off.

So, of course, I would love to be better at talking. In the first place, I don't even talk normally, like, in my day-to-day. I might speak, like, 10 sentences. Honestly, I wouldn't really be that thrilled if I had to practice talking.

Q. You said you would reveal the song that was playing in your ears for seven matches. Can you reveal that? Why is that the song that you picked?
NAOMI OSAKA: It's called Win. It's by Jay Rock. Yeah, I was listening to that because my dad was obnoxiously blasting it during the US Open. I just thought maybe I should keep carrying on the trend. It worked, so...

Q. What does it mean to be the No. 1 player in the world?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I feel like it hasn't really sunk in. Maybe in the next tournament I play, if I see the No. 1 next to my name, I'll feel something. But for now, I'm more happy that I won this trophy, so...

Q. For the second Grand Slam final of your career, what kind of things did you talk about with Sascha beforehand?
NAOMI OSAKA: I didn't talk to him (smiling).

Q. Is that different?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know. Yeah, no, like we haven't really been talking, to be honest, like before any of my matches here. He would tell me, like, one thing, then I would be, like, Okay. That was it.

Q. You're 21. Most 21-year-olds around this time, a lot of them are going back to their second semester of college. They can't rent a car without having to pay a surcharge. The frontal cortex of your brain hasn't even grown yet.
NAOMI OSAKA: You're using a lot of big words here (smiling).

Q. You've done something that I think a lot of people would think is pretty grown up because they're back-to-back. Usually that's very difficult to pull off. Do you feel like a grownup?
NAOMI OSAKA: Sometimes I do. But I'm not sure if it's feeling grown up or being able to dissociate my feelings. I don't know if that makes sense. Like, you know how some people get worked up about things? That's a very human thing to do. Sometimes, I don't know, like I feel like I don't want to waste my energy doing stuff like that.

I think about this on the court, too. Like in the third set of my match today, I literally just tried to turn off all my feelings. So that's why I wasn't yelling as much in the third set.

I'm not sure if that makes me grown up. I don't think so.

Q. During the ceremony you mentioned how special it was to play Petra, given where she came from, her status. What about her game in terms of tennis? What did you feel?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, everyone that sort of listens or watches the tennis world, you always hear about how when she is on, she's pretty much unbeatable. The scorelines seem to prove that point, too. I was very nervous coming into my match today because I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't know if she was just going to blast winners, there's nothing I could have done about it.

And, yeah, I'm not sure if she played well today. I would have to ask either you or her. Yeah, it was very educational in a way, because for me it's very hard to, like, step onto a court against someone that I've never played, especially at such a high stage, so...

Q. So much was at stake today, a big stage. You said in the third set you sort of turned your mind off. What was that like? Was it a sense of quiet? Express what it was like in the third set.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot sort of. I was just executing my orders. I don't know. Like, I just did what I've been practicing my whole life in a way. I didn't waste any energy reacting too much.

But then when it got towards the end, then I started, like, realizing how big the situation was, so then I think I started, like, yelling c'mon again.

Q. What was your state of mind after winning the first set?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I was thinking that honestly I felt like I got really lucky in the tiebreaker. I don't think I won any points on her serve before that. So, yeah, I was just thinking if I had to play another tiebreaker against her, my mind was just going, like, into the future, which probably wasn't good, so...

Q. There's so many examples of players that win their first major title, then they fall. It's a hard thing to back up a win. You're the first player to back up your first major win since Capriati almost 20 years ago. When there was so much more spotlight and expectation on you at this tournament, how were you able to handle it and do what a lot of other players haven't been able to do recently?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I don't know. I just focus on tennis. Like, for me, when I play my match, everything else is completely not in my mind anymore. For me, Grand Slams is something you dream about playing as a kid. I don't ever want to waste this opportunity. So those are the biggest motivating factors for me.

Yeah, I mean, regarding media and stuff, honestly you guys have been really nice to me. I feel like when I was 40 or 70, I got way more media than I should have been getting. I was kind of used to it.

Q. You've done so many incredible things lately. Have you surprised yourself?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, yes and no. Like, I had dreams that I would win this tournament, you know? Every time I have a dream, somehow I accomplish it, I still feel like it's a very strange moment. Like, I feel like I'm living right now, but it's not necessarily real, if that makes sense.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Of course, as a kid -- well, not that I'm a kid. Like, when you're practicing really hard practices, of course you want to dream about what you're practicing for.

I think for everyone, it's to win Grand Slams and to be No. 1. So, yeah, of course those were two very big motivating factors. After I won the US Open, for me, I always thought that I wouldn't care about rankings if I was just able to get into the tournament without having to play quallies. Then I realized you can get byes in certain tournaments if you're seeded. That was my next goal.

Yeah, I mean, people were talking about being No. 1 if I win this tournament. I was able to accomplish that. But the ranking was never my real goal, it was just to win this tournament.

I do think I did have a lot of stress, but only in certain moments. Then it went away. It's usually during all the three-set matches I played this time. But I feel like I was able to handle it well, sort of relax my mind so I wouldn't overthink.

I mean, I think as a whole, this tournament was very eye-opening for me. I had a lot of matches that were very tough and I was behind in some of them. I think it showed me that I could win matches from behind, just on willpower alone. I think I was able to save a lot of breakpoints, so...

If me, I honestly felt okay about losing that game because I sort of realized that she's supposed to win her service game anyways, you know? I already broke her once. I was feeling pretty good about my serve. Yeah, I was sad that I had three breakpoints and I couldn't convert any of them. At the same time she played really amazing tennis during those three points, so it wasn't like I made three unforced errors. I think she hit two winners and one good serve or something. There was nothing I could be upset about.

Yeah, mentally we grow up a year every day, so five today (smiling). It still hasn't sunk in yet. Like, I just finished playing my match. I don't know. For me, maybe if I see my sister I can be, like, Guess who is the No. 1 tennis player? Me (smiling). Maybe then.

I think US Open because that was the first time I've ever gotten that far. I kind of lacked experience on that. I didn't know what my capabilities were. But I think this time around I was more aware of what I could possibly do.

For me, my goals are always winning tournaments. I would assume my next goal is to win the next tournament I play. Like, I'm going to have to play Indian Wells again. Of course, I'd love to win that again and then play Miami and hopefully win that. I think people that can win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, it's usually the best players in the world. That would be my next goal. Yeah, I feel like I'm going with the flow. That's sort of been my motto my whole life, so...