Naomi Osaka has admitted that at times over the last year she felt ungrateful about feeling that playing tennis on the world stage was not enough of an accomplishment in itself.
The world number two and second seed fought back from a set and a break down to beat American teenager Coco Gauff 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the second round at the Western and Southern Open.
In the past year, Osaka has pulled out of the French Open and Wimbledon – candidly discussing her mental health – before she returned to her native Japan to light the flame at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony before losing in the first round.
Reflecting on the past year and how her mindset has changed since then, Osaka said: “The choice to go out there and play, to go see fans, the people that are coming out and watching you play, that itself is an accomplishment and I’m not sure when along the way I started de-sensitising that.”
“It started not being an accomplishment for me so I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact.
“I think definitely this whole Covid thing was really stressful with the bubbles and not seeing people and not having the interactions.
“But seeing the state of the world, how everything is in Haiti and Afghanistan right now is definitely really crazy and for me to just be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play is – I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world.”
On the match she added: “I feel like whenever I play here it’s definitely always very tough. I feel like we’re really lucky to have played in front of a crowd today and for there to be so many people and for them to be so engaged and energetic was definitely really exciting.
“Today I felt like the match was very serve-reliant. So I’m really happy that my first serve didn’t let me down.”