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January 18, 2020

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What was it like stepping back onto Rod Laver Arena, which is I presume where you were practicing? What were the memories?
NAOMI OSAKA: I've actually only practiced on Rod Laver once. But, yeah, it was really cool. I just immediately had flashbacks of I guess last year.

Yeah, I'm just super happy to be back here. Hopefully I can play well.

Q. What were you expecting when you started to work with Wim Fissette? How has it been going since you started?
NAOMI OSAKA: I guess, what was I expecting? Just knowledge. I think he's had a lot of experience with previous players. I expected, like, a lot of information, for him to know, like, what he was talking about. Just, like, being able to respect that kind of I can trust him. I feel like it's been working out well, even though we've played one tournament together.

Q. How are you feeling compared to this time last year, when you obviously won the event?
NAOMI OSAKA: Okay, when you say 'this time last year,' do you mean like two weeks from right now or when?

Q. The leadup to the tournament. Are you feeling as confident and fit as you were last time around?
NAOMI OSAKA: I think so. I feel like last year I was young. Last year I feel like I was young (smiling). I was just this young kid that was going out. Like, my goal was to win, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me.

I feel like now I, like, appreciate more every single win because I know what it took to get it. Of course, I want to, like, win every match and I want to go out there and do that. That's what I'm here for.

I think maybe last year I was a little bit more fearless.

Q. You spoke about Wim Fissette. The funny thing is that one of his former players, maybe someone you looked up to when you were younger, Kim Clijsters, is coming back to the tour at 36 years of age, after seven years without playing competitive tennis. Do you think she can be successful again? Do you want to be a rival for major titles?
NAOMI OSAKA: My rival? Why does everyone keep asking me questions like that?

Q. Maybe a contender.
NAOMI OSAKA: Listen, I don't think it's right to, like, for someone that's won Grand Slams and stuff, I think it's right to give her the respect that she's owed. Obviously she knows how to play tennis well.

But I've never played her. It's a little bit before I came up. I wouldn't even know what she plays like at her best level. But she won Grand Slams, so obviously everyone can, like, play, so...

Q. Would you like to play her in the coming months?
NAOMI OSAKA: I want to play her and I want her to do that split thingy that she does. I don't know, it just looked so cool on the TV when I was a kid.

Q. What about the Australian Open hopeful Ash Barty? Have you been monitoring her form?
NAOMI OSAKA: Monitoring (laughter)?

I don't know. It's super weird. People keep asking me questions like we're rivals or something. She's in the finals of Adelaide right now, right? Yeah, I think obviously she's a great player. She's the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

I don't know, we've played really close matches.

What was the question? Sorry. I've been just stuck on this 'monitoring' thing, like do I have screens of her matches or something? I don't know, yeah.

Q. The rivals thing you talked about in Brisbane, too, you laughed at that. Do you feel like there's anyone who is a rival for you at this point in your career? Is it still just your sister? Who would it be?
NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly I feel like I'm figuring that out. I think having a rival is something that is kind of rare, though. It's someone that you've played consecutive times, and it's been super tough. You win some, you lose some.

I think I'm honestly just so new. Like, I haven't played anyone more than four or five times. So, yeah, I feel like having a rival right now would be a blessing. But I don't think there's anyone that I've played that many times.

Q. You still feel new even though this is your fifth time here?
NAOMI OSAKA: Please stop exposing me (laughter). I'm just trying to live my life out here.

We're talking about rivals, we're not talking about how many times I've been in the tournament.

Q. I was talking about, do you still feel new in this sport in some way?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I feel old. I literally tell Abdul this every day. It's a struggle waking up, you know? No, I'm just kidding (smiling).

Yeah, I mean, for me now, I do feel like I'm a bit more seasoned, even though I'm still relatively young, per se. But I think every year I get more comfortable on the tour, so hopefully that somewhat translates into my matches.

Q. You said a rivalry would be a blessing. What do you mean?
NAOMI OSAKA: Isn't it just more fun? I don't know. You can root for this person, you can root for this person. It kind of shows the personality.

Like I feel like Nadal fans, you can point them out compared to Federer fans. I think it's good for the sport, too. I don't know. That would be kind of cool.

Q. You said last year you were fearless, now you're more seasoned. Does it get easier or more difficult each year? Also I'm really glad you said it's hard to get up in the morning like the rest of us.
NAOMI OSAKA: I honestly don't know, because this year just started. I feel in a better head space, though, compared to where I was after I lost Brisbane last year.

But honestly, last year was the toughest year of my life, so I would hope it gets better. Yeah, I think I just got to keep fighting for every match, like, see what it takes me.

Q. Is that tennis-wise?
NAOMI OSAKA: I guess both, just like mentally more.

Q. Because of everything that comes with being a top player, do you mean?
NAOMI OSAKA: You know, it's funny, you guys tell me this, like, top player whatever thing, and I never really see it like that. It's really weird.

I think, I don't know, I still feel like Indian Wells was two weeks ago, 2018 Indian Wells. It's really weird (smiling).

Yeah, I guess just before everything, if I lost, it wouldn't be an article. Now if I lose, like, there's news. It was tough adjusting to that.

Q. Do you find you read or hear things that are said after a result like that?
NAOMI OSAKA: Last year I did, like, until Wimbledon. So, like, yeah, until Wimbledon I did. Then I just decided that this is what I've chosen to do, like, for the majority of my life. I've been training my whole life for this. I shouldn't let, like, outside noise - no offense to you guys, love you guys - but outside noise dictate how I'm feeling.

Q. You ignore it now?
NAOMI OSAKA: I try to. It's kind of hard most of the time, but I try to.

Q. Everything is tracked nowadays, statistics available about patterns of play, things like that. How helpful do you find that in approaching an opponent in a match?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, honestly for me, I don't really dig too deep into it. I kind of let Wim do everything. He just tells me what he thinks is the easiest for me to, like, remember during a match. I feel like I overthink sometimes.

So just, like, sticking to the basics, then two or three more helpful stats or whatever.

Q. On the rivalry topic, is there a player that for whatever reason you'd like to have a rivalry with, a particular player?
NAOMI OSAKA: Hmm... But it has to be someone interesting, too. Who is someone that's the direct opposite of me, though? Man, I don't know if it's because I just had dinner with her and she's a cutie, I really like Iga. But she would have to get beat every time. No offense.

I don't really know. Yeah, I don't know. That's more like an audience question.

Q. How about Bianca Andreescu?
NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, man. The whole match was too hard. I don't want to do it again.

Q. That's the point of a rivalry.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I guess so. I guess because everyone likes watching hard matches. We'll definitely play a couple more times throughout both of our careers. Not looking forward to it (smiling).

Q. What is your favorite thing to do in Australia?
NAOMI OSAKA: What is my favorite thing to do in Australia? Hmm...

I guess, like, walk around the city. Which city in Australia? Does it matter?

Q. No.
NAOMI OSAKA: Melbourne? I guess walk around and eat food. Yeah, I guess come to the site. I really love this tournament, so...

Q. (Question about what famous person she would like to meet.)
NAOMI OSAKA: Already met Beyonce, so I don't even need to go there.

I want to meet Obama. Does he count as a famous person, though? I feel like that's disrespect.

Q. He counts.
NAOMI OSAKA: Barack Obama.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I think I'm not sure if 'fearless' was the right word. I just know the stakes more so I weigh the options. Of course, I think there's a good and bad thing with that. It's more like swinging freely in some shots, if I'm being very precise on what I'm talking about.

I don't know, it's like if you're walking towards a destination and you don't know how hard the hike is, then you get there, the next day you have to come back and do the same hike, but you know how hard it is, it's like that.

I don't know if I explained it well, but...

I think I'm definitely more relaxed now compared to the US Open. I think I learned a lot there, just in a way of handling my nerves and what to expect. Definitely I'm glad I was able to experience everything that I experienced. I think heading into this tournament, I'll be more prepared.

Honestly, it's not expectation. I expect a lot from myself, but it's not expectations. I think about points sometimes. I don't know what it is right now, but I think I would drop out of the top 10 if I lost in the first round. That kind of weighs heavily on my mind, like, all the time like US Open and here. Just getting that out of the way and trusting myself and knowing, like, if I play the best that I can, then obviously I won't lose in the first round.

But, yeah, it's just like this constant, like, negative 2000 points is in my brain all the time. Trying to avoid that.

Yeah, in the off-season I did a lot of fitness and trained with Wim. We talked a lot, tried to figure out, like, both of our ideas going forward. So I'm really happy we did that.

And, yeah, my shoulder is pretty good. I think I served well in Brisbane. Hopefully I can serve well in this tournament, too.

That's a tough question. I think in Brisbane, though, I played, like, four top-20 opponents. So it was really difficult right off the bat. I can't really even gauge my level that well.

I think I'm playing better this year, around this time this year, than I was last year. But everyone in the world is getting better. That's not really an accurate, like, comparison, to compare me last year to this year.

Yeah, I don't really know too much about her. Wim told me that she was practicing on the court that I was going to practice on in Brisbane, so that's honestly my only memory of her. I should probably start watching matches.

But for me, I was trying to avoid looking at the draw and stuff, so that's why I was holding off on knowing who I was playing for such a long time. But it should be a good match. I mean, everyone that's in the main draw is a good player. I think first rounds are always very tough, so...

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