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August 23, 2019

Naomi Osaka

New York, NY, USA

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Welcome back as defending champion. Obviously last year's final was marked by a bit of controversy around the officiating. It turns out that Carlos Ramos will not be officiating any of the Williams sisters' matches this year. Will you want him officiating your matches this year in any way? Do you feel the new changes that the USTA announced today about officiating being a bit more transparent about code violations is a good thing?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me -- can you hear me? I don't know what to do. Man, you know speaking loud and me don't get along.

Okay, so for I never really say that I don't like an umpire, so I never change that. Like, I won't be specific, like, if I don't want someone to umpire my match. I just go with whoever is doing it.

And then I was just told about the code violation rule, like, it's going to show up on the screen or something? But I'm not, like, 100% briefed on that, so I can't really answer it too specifically.

Q. (Off microphone.)
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, if it happens, it happens, but I...

Q. I remember you once told us from a young age you were used to getting more media attention than you thought you or someone else would, and I'm curious, for you since you were 15 and 16, getting that kind of attention already, what was important for you at that age to feel protected and to feel that you're making the right decisions and progressing in the right way?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me, I'm going to be honest. I 100% don't take this seriously (smiling). That's the kind of problem with me. And honestly, I feel like you guys are so nice to me. Like, we joke around, Courtney, I love you (smiling). And, yeah, like, you guys are so nice so it's sort of like a family.

Some of you guys I see every week. Some of you guys I only see at Grand Slams, but it's, like, all love. Yeah, I have been kind of blessed with this media attention. Sometimes I don't want to do press, but you guys ask for it, so I'm, like, Whatever. I guess.

Q. Curious how you're feeling with your knee after Cincinnati, if you got a scan, what the diagnosis was and how are things progressing as you prepare for this tournament?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, it's getting better. Like, I have been playing more, like, longer every day. It's feeling better. Luckily I'm a fast healer, so I think it's looking good.

Q. The nature of the injury was?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it was called You Be Too Shady, so it indirectly hurt in my knee (smiling).

Q. I'll get a straight face. I know you're familiar with the WTA's age eligibility rule and that they have given a wildcard to Coco Gauff here. You're not that much older. Do you think it's the right decision for Coco to play here or if they should have given her the wildcard going against the WTA's rule?
NAOMI OSAKA: Going against? No, I mean, she's American. Like, she played so well in Wimbledon. Why wouldn't she play here?

Is that your question?

Q. (Question off microphone.)
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I don't get that. Like, come on. This is such a good experience for her. She obviously deserves to play here. Like, she played well in Wimbledon. She's super young.

For me, it's kind of the same as if someone plays the US Open juniors just to gain experience for how the main tournament is, you know? Except she can actually play the main tournament. I don't see how it would harm her at all.

Q. You had the experience of being defending champion at Indian Wells earlier this year. Curious how that experience might help you here? And if this slam feels any different for you now because it's the first time you're defending a big tournament like this.
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me I think going to Indian Wells and kind of learning how defending champion pressure feels, I think it definitely helped me out going into this tournament.

Because I just feel more loose and comfortable here. I'm not sure if it's because the last couple of months have been kind of turbulent, but definitely I feel really comfortable and I know that, despite everything, I play well here every year. So I'm not too worried about that.

Q. I think your first slam was Australian Open 2016. What was it like when you went from kind of being unknown to immediately having a lot of press around you, people speaking to you and people knowing who you are?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, my first slam was here, I think. I played quallies. So I guess we don't count quallies, huh? You're so mean (smiling).

Yeah, I think the experience itself was pretty fun but definitely a bit strange, because for me outside of Japan, no one really knew who I was, for the most part.

So it was definitely a bit weird going to the different countries and, like, actually having people know who I was and having to do media there, too.

Q. How do you use Serena's chances here? Do you consider her as the main favorite?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I don't look at the draw. I only know who she's playing the first round, but I don't really concentrate on other people.

Q. You opened up last month about how things have been tough for you and how tennis hasn't been as fun this year. Has it changed at all since then? If not, what would it take to change and make things better again?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I mean, it's definitely changed for me. I don't know. I took, like, a break sort of and kind of relaxed my mind and realized that you have to have fun doing what you love.

For me, I love tennis. Sometimes I feel like I don't, but I wake up every morning and if I don't play, I feel like I kind of have done nothing during the day.

Yeah, it's definitely changed for me. For me, I just go out now every day trying to learn something new, trying to just do the best that I can.

Can you still not hear me?

Q. It has been an interesting year for you. Are you living the dream? If sometimes you need to pinch yourself to say, like, Is this true? Is this happening? And if it's a dream, is it good or bad?
NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know. It has its moments. There are some things that I definitely, like, think to myself I'm really blessed to be in this position, and then there is bad things that come with that.

Yeah, I mean, I would never say anything negative about what's going on in my life right now, because for me, that's my life. That's what I kind of have to deal with every day.

Yeah, I don't know. For me, when you say is it a dream, it's like something fluffy, like you're on the beach somewhere sipping a pina colada. I'm right here right now.

Q. Have you ever had a pina colada?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, but I drink nonalcoholic. I have never drank alcohol.

Q. Do you feel you have a familiarity with these courts since you won here last year? Can you compare your mindset coming in to it last year to how you feel going into it this year?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I feel like I have a familiarity. That's not because I won last year. It's because I have been kind of hitting on these courts since I was a kid. I used to train here.

So that would be where that familiarity feeling comes from. My feeling last year was I lost three matches in a row before I came here, so I just wanted to, like, get one match. Then it just kept building on from that. As opposed to this year, I went to two quarterfinals back to back, and I feel very confident about how I am right now. So, yeah, it's a bit contrasting.

Q. Monday there is going to be an unveiling of an Althea Gibson sculpture. Can you talk about the significance of that?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I think it's really important. She's done so much for tennis, and I think that's really important for sort of historic figureheads like that to get the recognition that they deserve.

Q. We are doing a story about the ball persons here. I know this is a little off-topic, but I wonder if you could tell me about your relationship with these young men and women who help you do your match.
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me, the ball crew, they're very important. Like, I don't know, I try to be as respectful as I can to them, because honestly, I see them sprinting back and forth and it's really hot here. I see them sprinting back and forth, and I'm just, like, Wow. I kind of want to offer them water sometimes and a towel.

And I know that they're, like, here for the love of tennis. Most of them play tennis themselves. So I think that that's super cute. Sometimes I get little kids, and I don't know, for me it's very adorable and I'm grateful for them.

Q. You said you know who Serena is playing first and you talked about growing up watching Serena and Maria play one another over the years. What do you make of that match? How surprising is it that it's a first round? Will you watch it? What do you make of it?
NAOMI OSAKA: Of course I'm going to watch it. I know you all are going to watch it. I think everyone in New York is going to watch it.

Yeah, I mean, for me, I'm not that surprised that that happened, because, like, at every Grand Slam there is always some sort of drama. You know what I mean? Like a first round. Like, Oh, my God.

So this match just happens to be that for this tournament, and, yeah, I mean, I'm going to set my TV time so that I can watch it.

Q. How was your relationship since Serena since that night? Has it changed? What's it been like? Do you ever talk about that night? How has it been with her?
NAOMI OSAKA: Can I pass on -- like, I don't really pass, but I feel like I have answered this so many times. If that's possible.

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