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May 30, 2019

Naomi Osaka

Paris, France

N. OSAKA/V. Azarenka

4-6, 7-5, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. You said you were expecting maybe one of the toughest match in the year. Was it?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah. I think for me I feel like I didn't dip at all during this match, and she was just playing so well. I was just waiting for her to get a little bit tired. I think she did towards the end of the second set and the third set. So that's when I just tried to really accelerate on how fast I was sort of winning the points.

Q. Two matches. Two less-than-ideal starts. Why do you think that is that you got off to those slower starts in both matches? And is there anything you can try or do to avoid that as you move forward?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, it's funny you ask that, because I thought maybe it's because I serve -- like, I always choose to serve and then I get broken right away. So I was thinking maybe I should return first.

But for me, I want to learn how to win -- like, I'm kind of stubborn in that way. I want to be able to learn how to win holding immediately, and I think that that would get me off to a good start. So, yeah.

Q. When you were down a break at 4-3 in the second set, me and someone else turned to each other and said, she's definitely going to win this. Because we just kind of forgot what it's like to see you lose at Grand Slams at this point. Do you feel the same way about yourself, that with your confidence and how well you have been playing on these stages in the last, I don't know, nine months or so, that you always believe you're still in it even if the scoreboard is against you?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, after a certain point, I don't even look at the score. I just try to take it point by point.

I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire, like, if I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that.

So I probably shouldn't wait until the last minute. Yeah.

Q. Which comeback was harder to make, today or before against Schmiedlova?
NAOMI OSAKA: Today, because I actually played well today (smiling). You know, against Vika, she has the ability to hit winners. I don't think the other girl hit that many winners.

I was more making the mistakes. For me, that match, I just had to stop making errors, and it immediately became easier.

But against Vika today, I don't know, I felt like once I was back, like, towards the back of the court and she was more dictating, then the point was immediately over. So I felt like I had to be more aggressive, and that's kind of hard to do while you're down and you have to win a lot of games in a row.

Q. At the end of the second, you had had that momentum winning the set, and then you went to the third set and there was a huge time delay between the second and the third. You left the court, she left the court, for what seemed like forever. I think it was 10, 11 minutes. Were you concerned at that point that was going to get you out of your rhythm? In a situation like that is it difficult to get your mind back in the match? What do you do in between that changeover period?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know, because for me, when I went to the bathroom, to, like, change, I was freaking out, because I didn't want to get, like, a code violation. So I was, like, rushing and stuff.

And then I came back and saw that she wasn't back. That kind of just relaxed me. I wasn't really thinking about anything, just, like, I'm first, like I was the first one back. So I was just like whatever.

And, yeah, like, I was in such a rush changing, like, my hands were shaking during that entire time. So when I came back and saw she wasn't back, I just had a little bit of time to calm down and think about what I really wanted to do during the set. So, for me, I was fine.

Q. How much of the match today was mental and how much of it was physical? Especially the finish. And also, are you more comfortable with the number against your name now?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I think this match was equal parts mental and physical. Maybe more mental.

Yeah, I mean, the first set was, like, I got rolled. I made a little bit of a comeback in the end of the first set, but technically, like, she kind of killed me in the first set, and I just kept trying to find a way to stay positive and, like, jump around.

I don't really notice the number next to my name anymore. I don't think about it too much. I'm just thinking about trying to win this tournament.

Q. You likely seem to find all this solution at the slams. Do you have a different attitude at the slams or an extra gear?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think I do. That's not really a secret, either. It's kind of been how I am since I was little, or, like, 18 (smiling). I mean, Grand Slams for me are the funnest. I feel like the atmosphere is different. Everyone wants to win really bad. I think it's more interesting.

But to be fair, I have been trying to change that way of thinking, and I think I have successfully during this entire clay court season. Like, I got injured twice, which was bad, but other than that, I only technically lost one clay court match. That level was very high, so...

Q. A lot of players can be quite unreasonable when they're losing. You said that you were able to kind of recognize she was playing really well. And it was the same in Australia, you know, when you were losing to Kvitova when you lost the match points. Why do you think you're able to be, like, so clear-headed in the middle of a battle?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, because they beat a lot of people to get there. I can't think that I'm the only good tennis player in the world.

I don't know. I feel like there is a time for everything, and for me, whenever I play a match, even if I'm playing bad or good, I always recognize that there is a chance. And I can always tell when the chances are.

Yeah, I mean, it would be kind of, like, I don't want to say rude, but kind of arrogant to just think, like, everything is on my racquet. I know that there are some matches that it is like that, but, I mean, I'm playing against the best players in the world, so...

Q. Your next match is against Siniakova. I saw a few comments after that match, if you had won today, that people were excited that it was a match of some of the best hair in women's tennis on both sides. I'm curious if there's anyone else's hair in women's tennis you particularly admire. Because yours is obviously popular, too.
NAOMI OSAKA: I put my hair in a bun now, though.

Q. People still remember the good days.
NAOMI OSAKA: Um, hair. Oh, there is a girl, Coco Gauff, she has braids. I think it's cute.

Hair... (Smiling). I don't really look at people like that. Sorry.

Q. You said there is always a lot of pressure around you, like, if you have to prove something. After two tough victories, is there a bit less, more pressure on your shoulder now?
NAOMI OSAKA: Kind of, but also not really. I don't know. Because I tend to internalize everything. So even if the situation gets better, I find a way to, like, think that it's not getting better.

I don't know. Like, the first round obviously was really tough, and I think the first round is tough for everyone. And this round, I was playing Azarenka, which is not the best combination.

Yeah, I still, like -- it's not outside pressure. It's more like I feel like I have to win. I acknowledge that's kind of a toxic trait, but, like, it's gotten me this far, so...

(Naomi's answers in English to Japanese questions.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I think definitely today holding serve was very difficult. But I wouldn't attribute that to clay court. I would just say, like, she's a really great returner. Like, I was hitting serves and she was getting them, like, kind of frequently. Like, serves that I thought should be aces. Yeah, I don't think my first-serve percentage was very high today, but other than that, I can't say there is a big fault on how I played the service games. I think today it was more, like, who went to the line faster, because once you go back against someone as aggressive as her, I don't -- like, you're kind of stuck there forever. I know that she was trying to hit a lot of backhand rallies with me today, so that was something I was trying to avoid.

Yeah, I mean, today -- today I kind of felt like a challenger. Like, I know she went to the semis here before, so obviously she has a lot more experience here. She won Grand Slams and she was No. 1 way before I was. I'm still kind of new at this (smiling). I don't know. Like, for me, I have always wanted to play her while she was at her best. Like, I know the last time I played her in Rome, it definitely wasn't close, so I kind of woke up excited today, and then I got really nervous. And then it got better, but...

Yeah, I mean, for me, during moments like that, I just think about everything that I have practiced and, like, patterns that I know have high percentages and kind of go from there. And then everything kind of calms down. Like, for me, during deuce points is when it's super loud, and I think I get very stiff, but then during the advantage points, I don't really hear anything. It's kind of weird.

Yeah, I mean, I definitely had confidence going into this tournament, or have, I don't want to say "had," but I have confidence, like, playing my rounds here. Because compared to last year, I think I did way better on the clay court season leading up. So, yeah, I can look back on those matches. In Germany, that was really crazy. Madrid, too. I feel like I have been playing a lot of comeback matches. But, yeah, that's definitely helped me on my experience here.

Yeah, I mean, for me, I wasn't nervous going into this match. Like, you know, the usual, like, right-before-you-go-on-the-court-type nerves. Nothing like how I experienced the first round. But I think also I felt that way because I didn't think I could afford to be nervous. Because, you know how, like, I play better against the high-level people? Yeah, I mean, she's been playing great the entire season, so I was just, like, I can't make any mistakes, like, I can't be nervous because she's gonna kind of steamroll me, and she did in the first set. Because I don't know why I started kind of slow. Like, I started spraying in the first service game, so that was a big mistake. But yeah, today was fun. It was very interesting.

Yeah, I mean, I think if I had to -- if I had to look at it as an effort level, I think today was the best clay court match I have played this year, because I didn't stop trying at all. Like, every point was kind of, like, pedal to the metal. Metal to the -- whatever, which one. What was I going to say? I had something really intelligent to say, but then I forgot (smiling). Now it's going to bother me. Okay.

That's a new word. Oh, "choked." I thought you were saying "chalk." I was so confused. Sorry. No, because during 5-1, right, I was up 30-Love. I had two -- I kind of felt like she was kind of over it after, like, 30-Love, like, I felt like her atmosphere around her changed. She seemed more, like, accepting of the fact that I might hit aces or whatever. So then I saw that, and then I started overthinking. I thought, oh, we're gonna hit some aces. Get off this court real quick. And I sprayed one ball out, and then the next ball she hit a dropshot, and I kind of didn't place it so well. And then it was 30-All. And then I started panicking, because she kind of was, like, Oh, this girl is choking. I'm about to come back in this match. Then, yeah, I kind of lost that game. And then, you know, what I started thinking about? I was thinking about the US Open. You know, against Keys, the tragic match. I was thinking about that. I was like, Yo, I'm going to do this again? For real? I was trying to win really hard to win her service game and then I lost it. Then I was, like, Eww. And then she had a break point. My serve came back to me. So I'm thankful for that. And, yeah, I managed to win. Sorry. And you were kind of asking me about choking and I just gave you a full story (smiling).

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