Naomi Osaka SF interview

  • def. Karolina Pliskova 6-2 4-6 6-4

Q. Karolina said in her press conference you may have had the best game in your life. What went well in the game?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I don't necessarily think I played the best I've ever played. I mean, for me, what I take away from this is that I never gave up, and that's something that I'm really proud of myself for.

There are moments in the match where I thought, like, This is getting really close. I just thought I wouldn't forgive myself if I had, like, a little dip or a moment of accepting defeat.

Yeah, I mean, yeah.

Q. How big of a deal would it be for you to not just become No. 1, but to become the first man or woman from Japan to hold that ranking?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, of course that's a very big deal for me. It's one of the biggest goals that I had I guess playing the quarters, then hearing that it's possible.

For me, my main goal is winning this tournament. I think the ranking comes after that. I tend to do better if I focus on one goal.

Q. What are you telling yourself in the moments like in the photograph behind you?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I guess for me, I just want to keep myself pumped. Yeah, I mean, that's like a way that I keep myself focused, not negative, because I do know that I have those tendencies. It's more of a reminder than anything else.

Q. In Beijing you said you don't want your career to be defined by one tournament. At the time could you have imagined you'd be in the final of the next slam? How proud of yourself are you for doing it?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit unreal. At the same time I realize the work that I put in during the off-season. Every match that I played, I tried my best. It just felt like it was a continuous effort.

Yeah, I mean, I can't believe about the same time it's sort of the reality I am in right now, so I can only keep going forward from here.

Q. People who have had their breakthrough slam have found it hard to back up. Why do you think you've been able to?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, everyone, the veterans from my press conferences, you guys know that I love Grand Slams. This is, like, a place where I think is worth all the training. When you're little, you watch the Grand Slams, you watch all the players play, like, the legendary matches here. For me, this is the most important tournament. There's only four of them a year, so of course I want to do the best that I can here.

Q. What is it like being able to say you've been in this position before?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it's a bit strange, especially since the Australian Open is so different from the US Open for me.

Q. Can you say why it's different?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it's just the cities, they're two completely different places. The atmosphere I guess is completely, like, opposite sides of the spectrum, despite the fact that they're both hard court tournaments. It's a little bit weird for me.

Q. Earlier in the tournament you played a couple players who mix up speeds, spins. How was it today playing someone like Pliskova?
NAOMI OSAKA: It was a little bit different because I felt like she could end the point whenever she wanted to. At the same time I played Su-Wei, and I did feel like Su-Wei did hit the ball harder than Karolina. I thought that Karolina was playing a bit – 
she wasn't making that much unforced errors. Like, she wasn't trying to go for much. It felt like she was waiting for me to do something most of the time.

The pace part wasn't really a problem, it was just her serve was very difficult to read, so...

Q. How much of Stefanos Tsitsipas have you followed? Do you think you two are kindred spirits at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: I forgot to check the YouTube Channel. Oh, my God (laughter).

Yeah, I mean, he's playing his match now, right? I'll probably, like, see it when I go back to the hotel if they're still playing, so...

Q. Years ago you said if you were good enough, experience didn't matter. You're 21, you've won a slam, you're in your second straight slam final. Is this experience or just that you're that good?
NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, be careful with that last sentence.

No, I think for me it's experience. I've been in the third round. I was stuck there for two years. As soon as I could break away from that, now I'm here again, I think it's just experience and a confidence issue for me it's always felt like.

I would love to say I'm that good, but literally I'm playing the best players in the world, and I've been playing three sets most of the time. It's more like a battle of will at this point.

Q. Looking ahead to the final, what are your thoughts on playing Petra?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, we've never played before. I think to have the opportunity to play her for the first time in a final of a Grand Slam is something very amazing.

I've watched her play the Wimbledon finals. I know what a great player she is. It's definitely going to be very tough for me.

Q. (Question about on-court temperature predicted to be very hot.)
NAOMI OSAKA: When you say it like that, it sounds a bit intimidating. Yeah, I mean, for me, I like sweating. I like the heat. I live in Florida, so I would hope to say I'm used to that. Maybe not that degree.

Yeah, I mean, I like it when it's hot more than it's cold, so...

Q. You usually have a bit of a muted celebration. Today with the drama and the praying and all that, can you walk us through the last few moments. Are you making a conscious effort of being more vocal or this is just happening?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, this entire match more than anything, it felt like we were equal. But I felt like for me, there are certain things that she's better than me at, right? I felt like I have to keep pumping myself up. Every time there's an opportunity or something doesn't go my way, I had to keep being very positive. That's what the c'mons were for.

The match point, it stressed me out when he called that ball out. Yeah, I honestly really didn't want to hit a second serve at that point. That's what all that of celebration was.

Q. Yesterday overnight there was a bit of controversy about one of your sponsors whitewashing a promotional campaign in Japan. Do you have an opinion on that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I'm just focused on this right now. I've gotten to the final of a slam, and that's sort of my main priority, so...

Q. As a socially conscious person, are you content that campaign has been taken off the media now?
NAOMI OSAKA: Like, I've talked to them. They've apologized. For me, it's obvious, I'm tan. It's pretty obvious. I don't think they did it on purpose to be, like, whitewashing or anything. But I definitely think that the next time they try to portray me or something, I feel like they should talk to me about it.

Q. You talked about the matches being a battle of wills. Talk about your will. Do you think that's a great strength of yours? When did you realize you had a strong will? Is that something you can work on?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, whenever I have a tough loss, like Brisbane was the last tough loss I have, I feel like I learn a lot from it. The biggest thing I took away from that loss was the fact that I didn't really try 100 per cent. I just accepted the fact that I was going to lose.

For me, at this tournament, I wasn't really focused on winning winning. I just wanted to make sure I tried 100 per cent on every point. I'm still here, so thankfully that's working out.

I know that there's other things that I can maybe, like, tiny details within the large thought that I'm having of trying my best, if that makes sense.

Q. You said you were stuck in the third round for two years. For us, your Grand Slam success seemed like it happened quite quickly. It's not normal. For you, does it feel like it's happened quickly or taken a long time?
NAOMI OSAKA: Man, for me it feels like it took a while. Like, I've always wanted to get to the second week. I only did that last year for the first time here. It definitely means a lot that I've gotten to the final here, of course.

Maybe my time goes slower than your time, I don't know. But definitely I remember all the matches that I lost in the third round. Especially since after you guys are so nice to me and you ask me, How does it feel to always be stuck in the third round (laughter)? Yeah, that definitely makes me feel a lot better.

Q. How did it feel to be stuck in the third round?
NAOMI OSAKA: How could you (laughter)?

It felt great.

Q. It seems like the controversy over the Nissin ad mostly came from westerners, people who are objecting to it. There's been a misunderstanding about the way Japanese people are drawn in manga. To western eyes it looks like you make everybody look white. Japanese people say that's not the case. Do you feel this is an example of cross cultural misunderstanding? As your star rises, you are a star in Japan, Americans start to pay more attention to you, Haitians do, how do you see juggling that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I mean, there's a lot of Japanese reporters in here, so you want to ask them about the drawing thing.

But I think for me, like, I get why people would be upset about it. The person that, like, drew that, I'm not really sure, but I think he was the creator of Prince of Tennis. I feel like you would have to do research on it, like, to see if he's ever done things like this before.

I mean, to be honest, I haven't really paid too much attention to this. This is sort of the first time that anyone's asking me questions. I don't really want to say anything wrong at this point. I feel like I should do my research before I answer, if that's okay.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: For me, I think of these two as two different tournaments. You sort of have to start each Grand Slam knowing that if you do get to the finals, you have to play many matches.

I think for me, though, it definitely helped knowing that I won the US Open because I knew that I had the ability to win that many matches, play for that long. I was thinking about that while I was playing this tournament, but at the same time I didn't want to dwell too much on it.

I mean, I was calling on the power of everything for that ball to go in. I don't know what my feeling was. I really, like, if somehow I could will the ball to show up as in on the Hawk-Eye, that was my main goal.

Yeah, I mean, if you notice in the second set and the third set, she got super aggressive on my second serve. She was running around them. For me, like, I wanted to risk hitting it a little bit faster, but at the same time I didn't feel like she was hitting winners. I could still touch the ball, so I wanted to wait to see if she would start hitting return aces on me. That's why I was a little bit hesitant on my second serves.

About the inner peace thing, I mean, of course I feel like I had it today. It could have been better. But there were moments where I really felt stressed out. I think I still managed to come back. Yeah, I definitely think I'm still working on it.

Yeah, I mean, I think in general, though, I just wanted to stay with her on the backhand. She wasn't really hitting my forehand as much. I don't think anyone will. Yeah, I definitely felt like it's something that I have to be conscious of. If she hits a winner when I go cross-court to her, then I have to accept that. Yeah, I was definitely trying to be more consistent on my backhand.

Yeah, I mean, of course I think it's amazing if I could be No. 1. For me, I just think about this tournament and each match and each step that I want -- like each step that gets me closer to the ranking. I don't think anyone plays a tournament and thinks immediately they want to be No. 1. I think they just think about the goal, which is winning the tournament. For me, last year I was ranked 70 something, I think. I'm just really happy that I'm in the position that I am now, and I'm not going to take it for granted.

Yeah, I mean, she had a lot of breakpoints on that one service game. I just felt like I had to try 120% on those points, accept if she hits a really good winner. Thankfully she didn't. I was still able to keep going. Yeah, eventually I was able to win, so...

Yeah, I mean, I don't think I've played a left-handed player in months. I definitely haven't practiced with one during the off-season. It's going to be a little bit tough for me to adjust, I think. I mean, I already know this going into the match, so hopefully I can find a left-handed person to hit with tomorrow. Then I guess I'll just see what happens.

Yeah, I mean, definitely I think everyone's has dreams that they want to win. For me, I've been having this dream that I won this tournament. I don't really want to jinx it. I felt like maybe I might have just now. Hopefully I didn't. But, yeah, I feel like everyone's goal is the same. She has the same goal as me, which is to win. It's going to be a really hard fight the day after tomorrow.

He was telling me something about my serve, but I don't remember. I think you might have to ask him if he does press. Sorry.

I mean, my dad for me is sort of my mental pillar. No way I would have gotten anywhere close to where I am now without him. He's super positive. Whenever I'm sad, he does silly stuff that makes me laugh. So I'm really grateful for him. Honestly, he hasn't been watching my practices or my matches, I think. I don't know where he goes, but he's gone. He just comes after the match and he's fist pumping me. No one knows where he went. I think I give him anxiety or something. But, yeah, definitely I really love my parents, my family, my sister. They've all really helped me out so much, especially my dad, so...

Basically the main reason why I haven't been practicing for that long is to keep you guys on edge (smiling). You only get, like, five minutes to film something. But no, I mean, I've been playing three-set matches this entire tournament. I know how to hit the ball at this point. Honestly, I feel like I would benefit from not staying on the court that long now. Yeah, I mean, I feel good whenever I practice, so there's not really a reason to keep it that long.