29 Aug, 2021 06:45 PM
Naomi Osaka broke down in tears during questions ahead of the Cincinnati Masters. Video / ESPN via AP
Tennis star Naomi Osaka has opened up on her mental health struggles ahead of her defence at the US Open.
Osaka returns to grand slam action for the first time since pulling out before the second round of French Open for a mental health break.
She recently broke down in tears following a press conference question at the Cincinnati Masters.
The Japanese player sparked a discussion regarding athletes’ mental health after pulling out of the French Open in July following fines for skipping post-match media sessions.
Osaka took a break from major tennis events before returning to compete for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, revealed that she had battled depression the past few years.
In a long post on Twitter today, Osaka said she’s focusing on celebrating herself after being ‘self-deprecating’ up to this point in her career.
“I’ve been reflecting over this past year. So grateful for the people around me because the support I feel is completely unparalleled. Recently I’ve been asking myself why do I feel the way I do and I realize one of the reasons is because internally I think I’m never good enough. I’ve never told myself that I’ve done a good job but I do know I constantly tell myself that I suck or I could do better.
“I know in the past some people have called me humble but if I really consider it I think I’m extremely self-deprecating. Every time a new opportunity arises my first thought is, “wow, why me?”. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m gonna try to celebrate myself and my accomplishments more, I think we all should,” Osaka said on Twitter.
“You got up in the morning and didn’t procrastinate on something? Champion. Figured something out at work that’s been bugging you a while? Absolute legend. Your life is your own and you shouldn’t value yourself on other people’s standards. I know I give my heart to everything I can and that’s not good enough for some then my apologies but I can’t burden myself with those expectations anymore. Seeing everything that’s going on in the world I feel, like if I wake up in the morning that’s a win. That’s how I’m coming.”
Osaka is aware she will be the centre of attention when she has a racket in her hand as the defending women’s champion at Flushing Meadows — and when she has microphones in front of her.
“I mean, it will definitely feel a bit different. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I kind of had to get over the feeling of people’s gazes feeling a bit different to me. At the same time, I started to tell myself that it is what it is. Like, I did what I did, so I can’t really change people’s perception on me,” Osaka said ahead of the tournament.
“It might make me feel a little bit nervous. But first rounds always make me feel a little nervous. Maybe I can just attribute it to that. I guess I’ll find out when I’m in that situation.”
Shortly before the French Open began in May, she vowed not to speak to the media, saying the process raised doubts in her mind. Then, when she skipped the news conference after her first-round win in Paris, she was fined $15,000 and threatened with suspension — so Osaka withdrew from the tournament altogether, explaining that she dealt with anxiety and depression, and sat out Wimbledon, too.
“I didn’t know,” she said Friday during a 13-minute news conference that included jokes and smiles, “how big of a deal it would become.”
Osaka opens her tournament against Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzková tomorrow.