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August 27, 2019

Naomi Osaka

New York, NY, USA

N. OSAKA/A. Blinkova

6-4, 6-7, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You said that you haven't felt that nervous maybe ever. How did you feel and how did you get over that?
NAOMI OSAKA: I felt nervous. Yeah, I mean, for me it's definitely a new feeling. Never had to come into a tournament as -- well, come into a Grand Slam. I mean, I went to Indian Wells once. So I did feel like that gave me a little bit of practice, but the amount of nerves that I felt today was completely different than in California.

Yeah, I'm kind of really glad that's over.

Q. How did you get over that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, I didn't. It was kind of consistent throughout the entire match, which was very strange for me, because normally it would be, like, the first couple of games or the first set.

But, yeah, it never really went away.

Q. From 1-4, 15-30, seemed like something clicked within you. You played that great string of 10 points. She played a great match, as well. At patches it seemed like you were playing as good as you had played in Australia. Did you feel that way?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think there were moments where I played really well, and then moments where, I mean, I didn't play as well. I think as a whole, I just need to learn how to stay more consistent on the good side.

But I didn't really expect myself to play amazing today. And I knew it was going to be a really tough battle. The only thing I would have wished is that I won the first match point.

Q. There was a recent player council election and there is new players who are on the player council. As someone who is at the top of the sport, even if you're not on the council, how involved would you like to be or how informed are you? Is there anything you feel that is very important that the tour needs to address?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I know that Sloane got elected, because every day she came up to me and asked me to vote for her. (Laughter.) She was very passionate about it, too. I know Donna got elected, because I saw that on Twitter.

Yeah, I mean, for me I feel like the people that are very outspoken about things they want changed are the ones that are, like Sloane, they actively want to get involved. I'm not too worried on that part.

Q. How would you describe your journey from a year ago to now with obviously the success at the next major and then the challenges that you had in the months after that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I would describe it like a book. It's not quite done yet. But, I mean, it's, like, currently being written.

I don't know how the ending is going to be. I only know what the chapters are. For me, I'm just reading it, you know.

Q. What would be the best way to describe the chapters that have unfolded in the last few months?
NAOMI OSAKA: Plot twist (smiling). But the kind of plot twist that makes you want to keep reading it.

Q. You have been talking about having more positive mindset. Did that help you today when you were dealing with the nerves to battle back? Did that help at all today?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think that there were a lot of experiences that I draw on. Especially today I knew that, you know, she's never played on Ashe. I have been lucky enough to play on Ashe a couple of times.

Yeah, I just feel like I'm more used to the big atmosphere. I think that definitely helped me in certain moments. Yeah, I feel like I at least try to draw on the things that happened to me in the past.

Q. Did they talk to you about playing during the day versus the night? Did you care at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: No. I don't really care. Like, I love the heat. So I'm fine to play at day.

Playing at night just means you can sleep in more. So I'm cool either way.

Q. At the ripe old age of 21, I wonder if you could give advice to 15-year-old Coco Gauff and how to handle the expectations that are starting to build for her and the publicity and the attention she's starting to get?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't think anyone would want advice from me, though (smiling).

Advice? I don't know. She tends -- not tends. She seems to be doing fine. I think everyone is different in the way they process things. I have actually been trying to talk to her recently, because I feel she's a little bit like me, a little bit -- well, I saw her in the locker room, and she just had her headphones on. I was, like, Oh, looks familiar. (Smiling.)

I just went up and talked a little bit. She's super sweet. Yeah, and, like, I have actually hit with her back when she was 13. She's 15 now.

Q. Way back then?
NAOMI OSAKA: Her dad and my dad are actually quite cool. So she seems to be doing great.

Q. There have been quite a few big matches where you have been down and turned it around. Do you get more of a thrill out of that or would you go to the court and blow your opponent off the court?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I feel like there was a term for it last year, because I remember last year I did it a lot, I would call it razzle-dazzle. So, like, after the match I would be, Did you like that razzle-dazzle?

But, yeah, I don't really like this. I would prefer not to play three-set matches. I feel like, you know, playing two-set matches, it's more decisive and clean. It feels more firm. Like, you put a statement out that you're playing well, you know.

As opposed to three-set matches. But I do feel if you get a three-set match you get a little bit more out of it. Granted, you do more running so it's a little bit of fitness, too. At least that's my way of thinking about it.

So I think it depends on the person.

Q. With three sets and the running you did, how did your knee come through? Did you have to manage it at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I wouldn't say it's behind me, but do I say it's behind me (smiling)? Hmm. What do I say to this? It's in front of me and it's behind me (smiling).

I don't know. It's something that I'm thinking about it but I'm actually not thinking about it. I'm actually trying to not be funny when I say that, if that makes sense.

Q. Can you compare where you were at physically and mentally last year as opposed to this year? Do you feel there is more of a bull's-eye on your back as the defending champion?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't feel a bull's-eye. I feel more like I'm trying to do something, if that makes sense. I feel like at this point everyone that I play is going to play really well, and I just need to learn how to cope with that and expect that going into the matches. I feel like I have been doing a better job of that recently.

I think I need to factor in the fact that this is a Grand Slam, too, and that's also going to raise everyone's level, so I shouldn't be taken by surprise as much as I was, like, today.

Yeah, I mean, everyone kind of knows, like, last year I lost three matches in a row. I just wanted to win one match here. This year back-to-back quarterfinals, and I feel like I can really do something here, so that's what I'm trying to do.

Q. You grew up in New York and I'm just wondering how often, if ever, you ever rode the subway and what you make of it and when was the last time you have been on it ever?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I went with my mom to work sometimes, because when she used to work here she worked in the city and we lived in Long Island. We would take the train there, and she would always be holding my hand very tight (smiling).

But, yeah, I think subway experience here is definitely something, if I had to classify it.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, of course there is a lot of inner nerves. But I just -- someone asked me about if there's a bull's-eye earlier, and I don't feel the bull's-eye. But I think people expect me to be nervous at this point, you know. And that's what is the most concerning part, because I like to prove people wrong.

I just remember -- I remember two years ago I played Kerber here. She was the defending champion. And I could kind of see how stressed out she was when I was playing her. And that was in my favor.

So I don't want to give people that look. Like, I want to be super calm. And I know I wasn't calm today, but, yeah, I want to be, like, very confident in my abilities.

Oh, I didn't think so, but okay. Oh, fake it till you make it, you know, (smiling). No, I mean, there were some moments where I was actually genuinely I thought something was funny. No, I don't laugh, like, as a fake. No, it was actually genuinely funny.

Yeah, there were some points where it was just a bit ridiculous to me, so I would be laughing after, but I wasn't pretending, no.

Yeah, I mean, the design, it was Nike and sacai, and I really like it. I think it's probably the cutest thing that I have ever worn so far. Designing it, it was a little bit rushed, like, by Nike. I don't think I was supposed to wear, like a collab yet this time around, but they were so kind. sacai team were so nice and kind and they managed to get it done, so I'm really grateful for them. I kind of just picked the colors.

Yeah, I mean, I was thinking about that match while I was playing a little bit. But only in certain moments. It wasn't like it was weighing heavy on my mind. But I was thinking, like, you know, I'm in this position right now, and literally it was a bit weird but I was thinking literally anybody that I play in this tournament right now would be a challenger. It's so weird to me, because I feel like I'm always the challenger until recently.

Yeah, being No. 1 and then defending the title is two things that are a little bit out of my control at the moment. And I know that everyone that I play is going to play super hard and they're going to want to beat me. They're probably going to play lights out. So that's something that I was thinking about that I had to deal with. Not that I had to deal with, but she had to deal with me.

You're so nice. Me? Yeah, I mean, I always have confidence in myself. I think three-set matches is kind of my forte a little bit, because it's the time to figure stuff out, you know. That's usually the third set is the set that I calm down, so I'm not too nervous about that or unconfident. I think just for me, usually when I'm in the heat of the moment I tend to not rationalize things, so I go for shots that aren't necessarily there. But I think that that's something that I'll get over with time, like, as I play more matches.

Yeah, I mean, I thought that that was a really fascinating first-round match, and I knew that everybody in the tournament was definitely going to watch it. And I was watching it, too, until 4-1 because I had to go to sleep. But, yeah, I mean, Serena basically had her foot down the entire -- well, the part that I watched. Yeah, she just did what she does, so... I had traumatic flashbacks to Toronto (smiling).

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