Naomi Osaka on Realizing She Stopped Seeing Just Competing at Elite Level as 'an Accomplishment'
The four-time Grand Slam winner, 23, took a break from a press conference on Monday after she began to cry during the pre-match interview at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Returning on Wednesday after winning her match against Coco Gauff, the 23-year-old explained why her relationship with the press and viewpoint on tennis has recently evolved.
"I guess seeing the state of the world, how everything is in Haiti, how everything is in Afghanistan right now is definitely really crazy," she told reporters on Wednesday, ABC News reported.
Osaka announced on social media last Saturday that she plans to donate any prize money she wins during this tournament to help relief efforts following the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which has killed over 2,000 people. Osaka's father is Haitian.
"For me just to be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play is, I don't know, like I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world," the Olympian said on Wednesday.
Discussing her tearful exit from interviews earlier in the week, Osaka reflected, "I was wondering why was I was so affected, I guess. Like what made me not want to do media in the first place."
The 23-year-old has been making headlines for amplifying the public conversation about athletes' mental health after she withdrew from the French Open in May due to anxiety surrounding pre and post-press interviews. The following month she withdrew from Wimbledon to take "personal time" prior to her competition at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games.
Speaking on Wednesday, she said she began thinking "me waking up every day, I should feel like I'm winning."
"The choice to go out there and play, to go see fans, that people come out and watch me play, that itself is an accomplishment," Osaka told reporters. "I'm not sure when along the way I started desensitizing that."
She added, "It started not being an accomplishment for me, so I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact."
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The tennis pro also cited the COVID-19 pandemic regulations as something that contributed to her mental health struggles and relationship to the sport.
"I think definitely this whole COVID thing was very stressful with the bubbles and not seeing people and not having the interactions."