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January 17, 2020

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

JAMES BRACEY: How good is this? One of the characters of the world tennis, Naomi Osaka. She's here with us at Margaret Court Arena.

Hello, Naomi.


JAMES BRACEY: Did you enjoy watching those little snippets of your press conference?

NAOMI OSAKA: It was terrible. (Laughter.)

JAMES BRACEY: You seem to enjoy them, though. The press conferences, that is.

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, yeah, because people ask me questions, and I don't really have to start the conversation, but I don't know.

JAMES BRACEY: That's exactly what we're going to do here tonight, as well, ask you lots of questions. I'm really looking forward to this.

Firstly, though, we spoke to Novak about it earlier. Last night next door, Rod Laver Arena, to be a part of the Rally for Relief, and raise so much money for people in need that have been affected by these horrific bushfires here in Australia, did you enjoy being out there in front of 15,000 people for such a great cause?

NAOMI OSAKA: I did not know there was that many people out there, but...

Yeah, I mean, it was definitely fun. I'm sad that we had to get together, like, for that event, but definitely I'm glad that it was for a good cause.

JAMES BRACEY: You took a snap and posted it on Instagram today. I love this, because you and Serena -- and I know you credit Serena with a lot of the inspiration behind your game, making you the player and the person that you are today. It's a great photo there with mum as you sit there.

A good moment with you and Serena out there on court last night and all those superstar tennis players.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I don't know, but for Serena was the most important (smiling).

But definitely it was really cool, and everyone that was there was super nice and friendly. I didn't really talk that much. It was great that all the other people with super-fun personalities were doing all the work.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: Let's talk a little bit about the win last year and reflect upon that moment and how good that year was and how you're going to potentially use that coming in to win and defend in 2020.

How was that?

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm sorry. I was looking at myself on the screen. (Laughter.) I did not -- sorry.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: Let's just say how good is it to be back as the champion as we get ready to start in 2020?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me it feels really great. I feel like I have practiced trying to be a defending champion. In the US Open it didn't work out the way I wanted it to, so I think I'm more prepared this time and hopefully it goes well.

SAMANTHA SMITH: Have you seen those pictures? Have you watched last year's final back?

NAOMI OSAKA: I watched the highlights.

SAMANTHA SMITH: That's okay.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: They're the goodlights.

NAOMI OSAKA: There was like this long video of me crying, which, come on, it's nothing new. And then the third set I thought the match was pretty, like, interesting.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: Yeah, it was good, absolutely. Something else that I thought as being great about you was at the US Open this year where you almost took that leadership role, if you remember your match with Coco Gauff, and you were really supportive of her, because you have been in those positions.

Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I feel like, I don't know, she's very special. And, like, all the things that happened to her at such a young age, like, literally the crowds were coming just to watch her.

So, for me, I just thought she needed to address the people that came to watch her, or if she wanted to even in the first place. Yeah.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: But those experiences that she was going through, you've obviously felt a lot of those yourself?

NAOMI OSAKA: Not quite like that, no.


NAOMI OSAKA: I think hers is at a much larger scale. I don't know. I feel like -- I feel like protective a little bit about her.

JAMES BRACEY: Do you like what comes with being a Grand Slam champion, as well? I know up in Brisbane they put you in a helicopter and sent you up in the sky. I guess the frills that come with being the superstar that you are -- here's some of the shots of you jumping in and heading up.

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, yeah, definitely I think it's amazing. I think a year ago or even two I definitely wouldn't have even dreamed to be in this position, so it's a bit crazy, I think, the way my life has gone, but I'm definitely very grateful to be here.

SAMANTHA SMITH: It opens up so many opportunities off the court. Are you starting to enjoy it? What's maybe the most fun thing you have done over the last couple of years?

NAOMI OSAKA: Most fun thing I've done?

TODD WOODBRIDGE: Apart from winning Grand Slams.

NAOMI OSAKA: I can't really tell you the most fun thing I have done.

SAMANTHA SMITH: But are you starting to enjoy it? Have you had a chance to talk to Serena who manages on-court, off-court commitments so well? Have you had a chance to get some advice from Serena?

NAOMI OSAKA: Okay, so I'm going to have to give you a briefing of how I am as a person. I don't talk to people. I just stare at them from a distance. That's lesson No. 1.

Lesson No. 2 is that if I were to talk to Serena, she talks to me, and I get surprised that she talks to me and that I don't talk back.

SAMANTHA SMITH: So you haven't asked her anything?

NAOMI OSAKA: No. I just say, Hi. How are you?

And then she's just -- I, like, blank out when she talks to me, to be honest.



SAMANTHA SMITH: Do you think one day you'll be able to talk to her?

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm trying really hard to get up the courage, because for me it's very odd. Like, she's the one that I admired to start playing, and then the whole US Open thing, whatever, and she's still so nice to me.

I just -- it's weird, like, tennis players, we have to play each other, we're super competitive, but then off the court we see each other every week.

JAMES BRACEY: That photo we showed earlier, what's going through your mind? When you're sitting next to Serena Williams, what's Naomi Osaka thinking about Serena Williams and about yourself sitting next to Serena?

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm thinking, Oh, my God. Because Nadal was right next to me too, right?

JAMES BRACEY: Are you just as star struck about Rafa?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, are you kidding me?



JAMES BRACEY: And Caroline? All of them?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, like, it's the best players in the world. What are you talking about?

JAMES BRACEY: You're one of the best players in the world. Like it's amazing that you sort of still see them almost like you're not on the same level as them. And there you are with them out on Rod Laver Arena yesterday. To all of us, you look like you fit in perfectly, because you are that star player.

NAOMI OSAKA: No, I just got here, you know. Like this is my second year kind of being on the higher level. But they have been there since I was little, low key.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: One last one before we let you go. The draw. We're about to see it.

Do you like knowing anything about it? What's your, let's say, habits with the draw?

NAOMI OSAKA: I don't look at the draw. I only see who -- well, I don't even really like seeing who I'm first playing until, like, the day before.

So if you announce the draw now, I'm probably going to run off the stage. (Laughter.)

JAMES BRACEY: We are about to.

Look, congratulations on last year's Australian Open title. All the best as you chase your second here at Melbourne Park.

NAOMI OSAKA: Thank you.

JAMES BRACEY: We're a little star struck.

TODD WOODBRIDGE: Thanks for being with us.

NAOMI OSAKA: You're hilarious.

JAMES BRACEY: We really are. I promise.

Naomi Osaka, ladies and gentlemen, here at Margaret Court Arena, and she is right. It is time to get nervous, because the women's draw will be revealed in just a minute. All the big stars, including Naomi, right here in Melbourne with one mission in mind.

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