Naomi Osaka Wins First Tennis Match at Olympics After Lighting Olympic Cauldron
And she's back.
Naomi Osaka returned to the court on Sunday in Japan, swiftly defeating China's 52nd-ranked Saisai Zheng in their first-round tennis match at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Osaka, 23, won in two sets, 6-1, 6-4.
Sunday marked second-seeded Osaka's first match in two months after she decided to sit out both the French Open and Wimbledon after going public with her mental health struggles. Osaka withdrew from the French Open after she was fined $15,000 in May for not participating in media requirements and press conferences.
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Just days before, Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony on Friday. NBC Sports' Mike Tirico later said during that day's broadcast that the tennis star's opening match was pushed back to Sunday so she could take part in the ceremony.
Shortly after lighting the cauldron, the tennis star reflected on the momentous experience. "Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life," she wrote on social media alongside a series of shots from the opening ceremony. "I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness ❤️ love you guys thank you."
Alongside a video of the moment she added, "Still trying to wrap my head around what just happened, crazy."
Earlier this month, Osaka said in an essay for Time magazine that she felt pressured to disclose personal details about her mental health so people would believe her reasoning for withdrawing from the French Open.
"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy," she wrote.
"In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms — frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me," continued Osaka. "I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones. I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.