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August 28, 2020

Naomi Osaka

New York, New York, USA

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/E. Mertens

6-2, 7-6

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. During the match, you had issues with your first serve. What did you do to adjust throughout the match? How did that affect you?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, I honestly felt like I didn't really adjust it, because it felt like the percentage just kept going down. But, yeah, I mean, I was aware of the fact that my first serve wasn't really doing so well, but I don't know.

I feel like, for me, it's just like a confidence thing. It's definitely something I need to work on, yeah. At least I was aware.

Q. Can you walk us through the last couple of days and how it went for you, just the sequence of events between you putting out the statement and the tour is canceling play yesterday, just how you feel at the moment?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, so I guess after my quarters match I saw everything the NBA was doing. Then I felt like I also needed to raise my voice, too.

So I called Stu, my agent, and we talked it over. Then we called the WTA, and they said that they would love to support and they were going to push play back a day. So I put out my statement.

I feel like this is where everyone gets confused, because I didn't say I was going to withdraw from the tournament. I just said I wasn't going to play the next day. And today is Friday, and when I posted it was on Wednesday. I think that's where there was a bit of confusion.

But, yeah, I feel like it's been kind of hectic, and I honestly haven't been able to get that much sleep yesterday. So I'm glad I was able to win today.

Q. Now that you have a megaphone and your voice has been heard and recognized, do you draw any particular inspiration or any extra motivation out of that to win matches? Because clearly when people win, people listen more.

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I'm not sure, because this is my first tournament back from quarantine. So I'm happy that I'm in the finals. Of course I feel extra pressure now that there is more eyes watching me.

Honestly I don't recognize some of you guys, so hi, I guess. Yeah, I would just say there's a lot of pressure I put on myself, and of course I feel like now there is another reason for me to want to win, but I feel like I have to reel back all those emotions and just focus on what I train for.

Q. Before the tournament decided that it would not hold matches yesterday, you were prepared to give a walkover in the semifinals. Just curious how tough that decision was for you to sacrifice that opportunity to make a final? More points, more money, everything that comes with playing another match, more practice for the US Open in order to stand up for something you believe. Was that an easy sacrifice for you to weigh the cost of that to you? Can you talk through making that calculation in your head.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me it was hard and easy at the same time. It was hard because I felt like I put myself in a really good position.

When I was practicing during quarantine, all I thought of was playing tournaments. So just to be in the semis of a tournament I felt was something that I could really be proud of.

I don't know. For me, in that sense, it was also at the same time easy, because I felt like I needed to, like, raise my voice. If withdrawing from a tournament would cause the most stir, then it's something that I would have to do.

Q. Did you feel like you were being brave, or was this easy for you, or both?

NAOMI OSAKA: I don't feel like I'm being brave. I just feel like I'm doing what I should be doing. Yeah, so honestly, when people say courageous or anything, I don't really resonate that well with it.

I just feel like -- not common sense, but this is what I'm supposed to be doing in this moment.

Q. After you posted your statement Wednesday night, did you have any inkling as to what kind of an impact that it would have and the fact that, by all accounts, it seemed like you had total support of your fellow players?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, honestly when I posted it, I just thought it would make rounds in the tennis circle. I wasn't aware, like, the reach that it would get.

So if I'm being completely honest, it was a bit frightening for me, and I had to turn off my phone because I get really anxious whenever I see people talking about me.

But then honestly I did put myself in that situation, so that was kind of stupid. But, yeah, I would just say I didn't expect the response that I got.

Q. You were ready to do a walkover, semifinals, for the situation in the United States. Other players like Coco, very committed with political issues. Do you think this generation will be remembered not only for their tennis?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, yes, because I feel like the players are using their voice more, especially Coco. I love her for that. She seems to be taking charge both on and off the court, so it's really nice to see.

Yeah, I feel like maybe this generation of tennis players won't be too scared of the consequences of seeing things that are on their mind. That would be really nice to see.

Q. I wondered what was the response from other players to your stance?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, everyone that I know was super nice, but maybe that's because they know me. To be honest, like, I'm kind of in a bubble so I don't really interact with that many tennis players. We're in a big bubble, but we're in our separate bubbles at the same time, so I don't really pass by anybody too often.

But everyone that I did come in contact with today, because I didn't practice yesterday, but everyone that I came in contact with today was really nice and supportive.

Q. You have had so much support on social media, people like Billie Jean King, how does that make you feel? Konta Azarenka have just come in and had the chance to support you and pointedly declined to do so. Wondered how that makes you feel, as well.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, Billie Jean King is super nice to me, for some reason, and she always texts me support. So it was really cool. She actually just texted me a couple minutes ago.

Yeah, it's really cool to have a legend in the game just supporting the things that you do and make you feel less stressed about the decisions that you made.

And about the other players, I would say, like, if I was in a position where I didn't know that much information, I wouldn't make a comment either. So I know both of them as people and they are both really nice.

I don't know. I feel like you're kind of trying to dig a little bit, to be honest. But, yeah, I would say if there was an issue, I think they would come to me face to face.

Q. You said before about like you weren't sure what would happen and you're surprised by it. What do you take from that now? What does that tell you about yourself and what kind of the power of what you do that you can post a statement and the tournament cancels a whole day of play?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me, it's definitely a bit eye-opening but in an odd way, because I only previously thought, like, the Big Three and Serena would have that type of power.

But also, at the same time, I recognize the fact that maybe the WTA and ATP wanted to do something like this but they needed a push from a player to do something like this? So maybe I was sort of their, you know, that one player.

But, yeah, I think it's definitely really cool of them to do this and for them to, like, be open to changing for, like, social issues.

Q. I think it was not too long ago that you were saying that during this off period that your whole mental state, et cetera, had changed and you wanted to be able to speak out a bit more. I'm just wondering was there some sort of a light bulb moment that you felt you needed to really take a step forward and become a voice and express your views more publicly?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think the biggest thing for me is to lessen the amount of regrets that I have. So I feel like definitely during quarantine, the biggest thing I thought was, like, when I get out of this, I want to grow as a person and I don't want to have that many regrets going forward.

I'm not sure if it's a light bulb or if there was any particular moment that, like, sparked me to speak up, but I do feel like it's been building for a while.

I honestly follow people more, like, I don't know. I like looking at the blueprint of how someone got somewhere and I try to emulate that.

So it was a bit odd for me to try to be the first one to do this, but I'm glad that it was received well.

Q. Have you heard from Serena at all or Venus? Second to that, what do you think that Kobe would be saying to you right now?

NAOMI OSAKA: Wow, you hit me with a tough question.

Q. I usually do.

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I just hope Kobe would be proud of me. For me, I always felt like, in a weird way, I wasn't worthy of knowing him personally or, like, having his number if I wanted to be able to text him. And I always thought I should achieve more things before that. So that's, like, a big regret for me was that I didn't really talk to him as much as I wanted to.

But, yeah, I hope that my actions and what I do in the future would make him proud.

Q. Did you hear from Venus or Serena?

NAOMI OSAKA: Did you hear from Serena or Venus?

Q. I did not. I'm asking if you did.


Q. Can you share a little bit?

NAOMI OSAKA: No, it's okay (smiling).

Q. Can you just talk about the final tomorrow? You play Victoria Azarenka. Can you talk about challenge? Both former No. 1s, both two-time major champions. Should be a good one.

NAOMI OSAKA: For me, it's really cool to be able to play Vika now, because I played her in the French last year, but I know that probably her best surface is hard court and also my best surface is hard court, so I think it will definitely be a really fun match.

I don't know. It's a bit odd to play people after practicing for six months, but I feel like definitely it will be very fun.

Q. There was that ninth game in the second set you saved eight breakpoints to hold. It was quite an interesting back-and-forth kind of game between the both of you. Can you talk about getting through that game and where you're finding kind of the ability, Wim was talking about it, about being able to find that big serve when you need it, the big shot when you need it right now?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I could not find my serve for the life of me today (smiling). So it didn't really help me out that much, that game. But I would say that I felt there were moments where I got really desperate, and I feel like when I get desperate I start making terrible decisions.

So I had to block that out, and I think that me being aware of that is a step in the right direction. I also feel that I'm really glad that I'm playing this tournament right now, because just having these match plays and being able to figure things out on the court is going to be really helpful.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, honestly, for me, I don't really sleep that well before big matches, anyways, or during tournaments. But, yeah, last night was really stressful, and I woke up sweating. I had, like, a really bad stomachache, and I think it was from nerves. I know why, and it's because I feel like in my brain I felt like I had to win this match and there was no possibility of losing it. I think I just put a ton of pressure on myself, and I just really wanted to back up my previous statement. I don't know. I just overthink like that a lot, but, yeah, so I'm just really glad I was able to win in two sets, because I felt like if I had to play a third set it would have been really bad for me physically.

Yeah, I mean, for me my left hamstring always gets a bit tired. Honestly, it's not something I can control. I think also because I haven't played matches in a long time is definitely affecting it. Hopefully with, like, if I go to sleep and wake up it will be better (smiling). And then for me, I just want to, like, create awareness I think is the main thing for me, posting the statement. Honestly just for people to have a discussion about it. That would be, like, super ideal, and that's what I was going for.

Yeah, I mean, I would say I think I'm in a good spot right now. I practiced this morning. I thought that I was playing really well. Of course it's very different from practice to matches, because during matches you get nervous. Of course there is way more on the line. I would definitely say I'm playing very well right now, and I think I'm putting myself in a good position for the finals and hopefully for the US Open. Of course I'm never sure what will happen, but, yeah, the "me" right now is really fit and is mentally sound enough to do damage.

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