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June 18, 2019

Naomi Osaka

Birmingham, England

N. OSAKA/M. Sakkari

6-1, 4-6, 6-3

Q. Naomi, how comfortable did you feel on the grass today?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I felt better than the two practice days. And I feel, like, every day that I play on grass of course I'm going to, like, learn how to play better, but for now I'm just really happy I was able to win that match.

Q. Was it psychologically challenging because of that unfamiliarity?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yes, of course, I don't really play that much on grass, so I'm just... For it to be the first round and to play such a tough opponent and also, like, the first match on grass I think it all kind of added up.

Q. What did you find particularly difficult about her game?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, she slices really well and it's kind of hard to play against someone that slices well on grass because it stays really low and she moves well, too. Yeah, like, adding that up, it's a really tough combination.

Q. You said in your on-court interview you felt you were screaming inside. Was it just a combination of everything that was frustrating or...?
NAOMI OSAKA: Not really because I feel, like, I should be able to adapt to things and I think that I do. It just takes a longer time than what I want.

I feel like there's a process that needs to happen that I'm developing, but I would rather it, like, come at a quicker rate.

Q. You are going into your next game. What are the things that you will take out of today's game to go into the next game, things that you are tweaking to make sure?
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, I just want to have a high service percentage, first service, because I think on grass it's really important to hold your serve and just try to be a bit more aggressive but controlled.

Q. How important is it to you to get a good start to your grass court season?
NAOMI OSAKA: I think it's really important for me. I'm only playing this tournament before Wimbledon, so I would love to get a lot of matches in and sort of build my confidence up.

Q. Although it might not feel that way at the moment, do you think that having a long, tough match first up might help you later in the tournament, and at Wimbledon, just getting more practice on the court?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think so. It might not feel it right now, but in the long run it helps me get adjusted to the court more and gives me, like, a piece of mind knowing I can play longer matches on this surface.

Q. What is it specifically about grass that you find challenging, aside from your unfamiliarity with it, is there anything technical about the movement that you struggle with?
NAOMI OSAKA: Technically, you have to prepare faster because the court, like the bounce, you are not that sure what you are going to get, so you kind of have to be on guard at all times.

Q. It was a tough match. How big an impact are your parents when you go out there on court?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, my parents are the reason why I started. My sister actually, too. And for me I try to live my life with the lessons that they taught me and I feel like it's worked out so far (smiling).

I hope that I can learn more things from them and my dad he is definitely one of the biggest role models I have ever had. Yeah, I feel, like, everyone's parents are sort of impacting their lives, so...

Q. You are still only quite young. What do you like doing that other 21-year-olds do away from the court?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know what other 21-year-olds do (smiling). I feel old.

Q. You are not as old as me, I'm 22. That's ancient.
NAOMI OSAKA: You are so young (laughing). I mean, if I have time, I like to hang out with friends, or a friend (smiling). I don't know, like... I guess people do that, yeah.

Q. Do you actually like playing on grass? And if you don't, is it a surface you might grow to love at any time?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, it's a bit odd because the time that I get most comfortable on it is during Wimbledon, so I feel, like, there's a repetition that needs to happen sooner for me that I would love to learn how to get more comfortable early.

So, yeah, I mean, of course, it's a surface that I think suits my game and I think that I have a lot of potential to play well here, so hopefully one day it will click.

Q. Are you still listening to Jay Rock when you go out on court and if not, what is your pump-up tune you are listening to most at the moment?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, maybe I should. I don't know if that was like a secret formula, but I switched. I tend to switch songs a lot, so right now I'm currently looking for new music, but...

Q. Denzel Curry's new album is very good?

Q. Yes.
NAOMI OSAKA: I like Speedboat.

Q. Okay. Check the new album out, it's good.
Q. There is a ranking issue, you could hold onto the No. 1 this week. Is that something that matters to you or is it something that comes with results you get?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, during my entire clay season, it kind of mattered and I think it kind of showed because I was kind of stressed out the entire time (smiling).

So, for me, now, I'm just kind of having fun. I'm enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I'll be No. 1. But you kind of have to deserve the spot that you're in and if I lose in the first round, I don't deserve to be No. 1.

And that's sort of what comes with the territory so I'm kind of chilling right now. I'm not trying to keep that in my mind.

Q. You said in Paris it was a bit of a weight off your shoulders when you had that Grand Slam run interrupted and you are still feeling a bit more relaxed?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, it would have been awesome to have a calendar, or to just win the French because I have never won it. But I think there are things that I have to learn with age (laughing).

And I think that's one of the things, like you can't expect to, like, win everything, especially when you're playing against the best players in the world. And there's going to be days that are really tough, but, like, what is that saying? 'The rainbow after the storm...' -- I don't know -- you know, '..but it's always better after a hard time' so...

Q. We have been hearing a lot about innovations in the sport, whether that is shorter sets, or on-court coaching, and a lot of the rationale is it brings in younger families. As a young person yourself, do you think that would make you watch tennis more, or the people you know who don't watch tennis, do you think shorter sets and on-court coaching would make them watch?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I don't know about shorter sets. But, I mean, I don't think on-court coaching is bad because I think people want to know, like, what could be going on, you know. Like, during the NBA they have a coach's break sometimes and I think that is kind of interesting to see what they are thinking about. I'm not the one to be asking that (smiling). So, yeah.

Q. I wasn't on court. Was there anything interesting in your coaching meeting today you can tell us about?
NAOMI OSAKA: Not really. Like, it was kind of professional which was kind of odd for me. Nothing really interesting, though. You don't get tea (smiling).

Q. Couple of questions. Were you able to enjoy any aspects of this afternoon?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, I always have a lot of fun playing against tough opponents. Of course, it's stressful during, but there's always, like, flashes of bouts for me that I always think, like, there is nothing else I would rather be doing and, you know, some people don't get to travel that much and I get to travel just to play tennis and for that, I'm extremely grateful.

Q. Are you relieved you managed to get your game finished before the rain started falling?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I felt lucky. The timing couldn't be more convenient.

Q. Having gone through a spell of being stressed out about your ranking, do you now think that perhaps it's better to just focus on your matches on your results and let the ranking sort of, let that take care of itself if you play well?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for sure, I think that's sort of my mindset right now. I'm just trying to enjoy the ride and yeah, like take it one match at a time and try not to think about the stats or anything like that because I'm not necessarily a stat person (smiling). So, yeah.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Japanese?

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yes, I was thinking, like, I have to play as hard as I can during these points and just try to focus on my serve a lot.

Yeah, I mean, for me it's always a bit nerve-racking to play on grass, especially since I haven't been able practice that many times here. It's a bit tough to, like, adjust, but I think everyone sort of went through the same thing because we were all here and everyone was hitting indoors, so I couldn't be the only one complaining about the situation.

I mean, I think what I'd change this year, trying to be more efficient on the returns.

I have played her before and I have actually practiced with her multiple times so I know that she's a fighter and she is going to give it everything, so I think I have to go into the match preparing for that.

Has she?

Oh, okay. I think I've heard of him, yes. No, I have never met him.

Is he getting drafted? That's big.

Okay. That's really exciting news and I'm pretty sure it's a really big deal for him so, yeah, like, I think everyone's cheering for him.

Yes. I mean, he's probably doing all the right things already. There is nothing I can say because his circumstances are a bit different from mine, I think. Basketball is a team sport, of course. But I'm sure he's surrounded by people that have a level-head on their shoulders, so...

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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