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February 20, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/J. Brady

6-4, 6-3

CRAIG TILEY: I just want to propose a toast to Naomi and say I know there is many of you online, I hope you also have your glass of Champagne and organized yourself. Congratulations again, your second Australian Open title, your fourth Grand Slam title. Did it definitely in style these two weeks, fantastic tennis. We love having you here and love your approach to the game, your approach to life, and there's lessons for all of us.

So well done. It's more than just about the tennis. It's about everything else, too. You have been fantastic, and so has your team.

A toast to Naomi. Well done. Cheers.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations. Can you just give us an idea of what your emotions and feelings are like right at this moment?

NAOMI OSAKA: I feel a little bit funny after I took that sip (smiling).

For me, my feelings, I'm really happy right now. I think this is a moment that I have been working for during the entire preseason. You know, it's really weird when you get to that final point, you start trembling because you can think of the "what-ifs." So for me I feel like I'm living in a "what-if" right now.

Q. Of all Grand Slam titles, all are hard courts. What will the first non- hard court be, clay or grass?

NAOMI OSAKA: Hopefully clay because it's the one that's sooner. For me, I feel like I have to get comfortable on those surfaces. That's the key thing that, you know, I didn't play juniors, so I didn't grow up playing on grass at all.

So I honestly think I'd have better luck on clay, because I think last year I didn't play bad at all. It's just something that I have to get more used to.

Q. If your semifinal with Jen at the US Open was one of your most memorable high-quality matches, how would you characterize tonight's?

NAOMI OSAKA: Tonight I felt like was more of a mental battle. I think we were both nervous. Of course, I can't speak for her, but I was extremely nervous.

I honestly just told myself before the match, I'm probably not going to play well. I shouldn't put that pressure on myself to play perfectly but just go out there and fight for every point. You know, the outcome is whatever it wants to be, but I can live with the fact that I tried very hard.

Q. Why were you so nervous when she was the one in her first Grand Slam final?

NAOMI OSAKA: I don't know (smiling). Ask my nerves.

Why was I so nervous? I think, you know, you want to win a Grand Slam. You know what I mean? You don't go into a final wanting to be the runner-up. For me, I feel like every opportunity that I play a slam is an opportunity to win a slam, so I think maybe I put that pressure on myself too much, but honestly it's working out in my favor right now.

Q. You have won this and you have closed the gap a little bit again to the No. 1 ranking. How much of a motivation is that on top of the successes you have had at Grand Slams in your career?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I don't really think about the ranking at all. For me, I don't play the most tournaments in the tour. You know, like, I just want to do well in all of the tournaments that I play. That's my goal is to be consistent this year, not to have a huge drop- off randomly in the middle section like June, July, you know, how I usually do.

But, yeah, I don't want to think too much about the rankings. It will come if I play well, and that's what I tell myself.

Q. A few weeks ago you said that as long as she was playing, Serena was the face of tennis. Do you think that this win, and maybe even the win on Friday, has begun to shift that at all?

NAOMI OSAKA: No, not at all.

Q. I guess your first three slam finals were against players that were very experienced and had won majors, but were you conscious of a different dynamic tonight coming up against Jen? I guess you were the most experienced player and more of a favorite. Did that kind of factor into your mind? Did you feel a difference with that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I was thinking about it this morning, you know. I have been in the position that she is in to go into the first slam. Of course I know the nerves that come with that. But then I was thinking on the other side, for me, I wonder if I'm expected to do better because I have been in slam finals before, so there was actually a lot of nerves with that.

Yeah, I would say I was conscious of it.

Q. How do you deal with those nerves? If they are there, how do you channel it and be able to play the way you want?

NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, how do I channel it? I always resist the urge to, like, yell before I go on the court.

I guess now my, like, answer for it is just talking to my team. We talk like an hour before the match about what we want to accomplish, what my goals are, and what I want to leave the court feeling like.

Q. What's the biggest thing you'd still like to achieve on or off the court that you haven't already?

NAOMI OSAKA: Me, I feel like the biggest thing that I want to achieve is -- this is going to sound really odd, but hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favorite player or something.

For me, I think that's the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. I think I have those feelings of, you know, watching my favorite players. Unfortunately I didn't get to play Li Na, but, yeah, I just think that that's how the sport moves forward.

Q. Winning the US Open was very much associated with the Black Lives Matter protests because of your certain masks and certain names on them. Is there any message, broader message that you'd like us to associate with this victory?

NAOMI OSAKA: Hmm. That's actually really nice of you to ask that. Thank you.

Honestly, for me, when everything happened in New York, I got really scared because I felt like it put me into this light that was a nonathletic light that I've never been in before.

So I feel like there is a lot of topics that people suddenly started asking me about that I completely didn't know about at all. For me, I only like to talk when I'm knowledgeable about the subject or at least know, like, one tiny grain of what I'm about to start talking about.

So for me I just came into this tournament just thinking purely about tennis.

Q. The first set when Jen hit that return right into the net and she was almost over the net and you'd have thought there was going to be a pretty easy put-away and she lost the set, did you think even a glimmer that that is the turning point? Because you went off with four games in a row after that, that this is likely to be my title?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I thought that was a very uncharacteristic shot from her, like, to miss that. So my mind just began thinking that she was either felt really nervous or really pressured, and I should capitalize on that by trying to, you know, win as many games as I could, like, pace-wise, because I feel like once a person loses the first set doubts start to creep in, so that's when you really should like put your foot on the gas. So that's what I was trying to do in the second set.

But I never really thought that this match was mine or this set was mine, because I know how good of a player she is.

Q. It's been about two-and-a-half years now since your first major title. What do you think the biggest lessons you have learned about yourself are both on and off the court since then?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think what I have learned on and off the court is it's okay to not be sure about yourself. For me, I feel like I've always forced myself to, like, be "strong" or whatever. I think if you're not feeling okay, it's okay to not feel okay.

But you have to sort of go within yourself and figure things out in a way. For me, that's what I did during quarantine before US Open last year. That's what I did when I was in quarantine here, too. So, yeah.

Q. You said you sort of consult those within your team, the people you call your family, what do you do there to overcome that feeling?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, of course I talk to my team. They are the ones with me. They're the ones that sort of see how I practice, how I, I guess, respond to different things.

Yeah, I call my family, my mom. My mom is funny. Every time I play a match she says, like, I wish you could just put more balls in the court. For her, the solution to winning a match is put balls in the court. She does not care about the pace or nothing (smiling).

But, yeah, my mom always makes me laugh, and my sister. So it's nice to call them.

Q. What do think she'd make of tonight's match?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think she's honestly just happy that I won. She's hard to please (smiling).

Q. Four trophies, two Australia, two U.S. Do you line them up? Where do you keep them? How often do you look at them?

NAOMI OSAKA: The 2018 US Open trophy is with my parents. My mom keeps it in its case locked away in a corner, so honestly you wouldn't even know that they have it there.

The other two are in my house in LA. I put them in my living room, actually, because for me it serves as a really good inspiration. Like, during my preseason I would look at the Australian Open trophy from the time before and I would really feel inspired to try to win another one.

Q. One Australia, one U.S. at LA; is that right?

NAOMI OSAKA: (Nodding.)

Q. You're off to a very unusual start in that you're 4-0 in Grand Slam finals. Wondering whether you think of yourself as a big match player, if there is either a match or a moment you can point to that made you realize that you would have that sort of success in the most important matches? Do you think that's something you're born with or something you learn and develop as an athlete, a tennis player?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I feel like for me I'm not sure if it's something you're born with, but I know that I didn't play a lot of tournaments when I was a kid, so I'd always want to take the opportunity whenever someone was watching me, I'd feel like it was more fun that way. So maybe that's how I developed wanting a crowd and wanting to play in front of more people.

But I also think it's because I watched a lot of Grand Slams growing up and seeing the crowds, seeing Arthur Ashe Stadium, seeing how it was in Australia and Rod Laver, and wanting to play in front of people and wanting to be, you know, the person holding up the trophy.

Yeah, that's sort of my answer to that.

Q. Congratulations. Mats Wilander said on Eurosport he thinks you could win 10 majors if you stay healthy. Do you think that's possible and does that challenge motivate you?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, I'm taking it in sections. For right now, I'm trying to go for five. You know, after five I would think about maybe dividing the ten, so maybe seven or eight.

I like to take things not big-picture. For me, I like to live in the moment. You know, it's an honor that he said that, of course. But I don't want to weigh myself down with pressure and expectations. I know that the people that I'm playing against are the best players in the world, and, you know, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.

But for right now I can only control what I can control, and that's working hard and giving myself opportunities.

Q. Congratulations. Speaking to other tennis players, they often describe themselves as needing to be selfish to succeed in the sport. With you, the other day you were saying you use yourself as a vessel for the hard work of everyone around you. Just earlier now you were talking about wanting to inspire other people as your biggest inspiration. So how do you explain your kind of unselfish approach to the sport in a sport that kind of requires selfishness in a way?

NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, okay. Umm. Well, I think for me I have a really hard time thinking about tennis as if it's just a solo sport. I know everyone says tennis is a solo sport, but I have always been surrounded by people that put in so many hours with me, and we do everything together.

So I would say that -- I wouldn't say it's selfish or unselfish. I would just say my mindset behind it is wanting to do everything together and wanting to share every experience that I can with the people that sort of do everything with me.

Q. Congratulations. You have so many young fans who, as you know, you're very important to. I'm just wondering how you see that sort of as a responsibility or as an opportunity, and how conscious you are in moments like this and also just I guess all the time of being a role model and what that means to you in your daily life.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say I guess in the past I felt it as a very strong responsibility, and I was also very scared and nervous of it, because for me I feel like people just see me on the court. That's where most of the time I get the media attention.

So even, let's say I play a match and I slam my racquet, I would get very, like, nervous about it, because I wasn't sure if I would get very bad press over not being a great role model, should I have slammed my racquet, things like that.

But, you know, over the years I have just realized, like, the only thing I can do is be myself, you know. There is 500 other tennis players if you want to pick to be your role model. So I feel it's a really big honor that there is little kids that like me, that come to my matches and cheer for me. But at the same time, I don't weigh it too heavily on myself, because I feel like I'm always, or I'm still growing as a person and hopefully they grow with me maybe (smiling).

Q. Congratulations. I just wondered, how different does it feel winning this title and New York the second time around, and how different do you feel as a woman to the person who sat there two years ago?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, definitely I feel more -- I feel like I know how much hard work you have to put into this, because the first time that I have won both these trophies I think, in a way, I was just a kid. I didn't really know what I was doing. I was winning my matches, but I wasn't really appreciating the moment, the tournament, how hard it is to even get to the position that I'm in right now.

So I would say the ups and downs in my career definitely opened my eyes a lot.

Q. Congrats. You spoke a minute or two ago about expectations. To what degree do you look at expectations as a burden? And to what degree do you look at expectations as a blessing?

NAOMI OSAKA: So the funny thing is I don't look at expectations as a burden anymore. I feel like I'm at the point now where it's something that I've worked for, you know. Like, people wouldn't expect things from me if I hadn't done things prior. If that makes sense.

Yeah, I feel like no one has expected things of me when I was younger, and now that I have kind of climbed up the ranks, of course there's going to be more pressures, but I feel like also that's motivation, because I also want to do better for myself, as well.

Q. So what are the benefits of those expectations?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think the benefits are it's just like motivating, like pushing me to do better. Like if someone expects me to do something, I would expect myself to do better than what they expect. So many "expects" in one word or one sentence.

For me, it's sort of like a challenge.

Q. You said just a few minutes ago that you tend to talk to your team about what you want to achieve that evening. Obviously the trophy next to you was probably the biggest thing in your mind. Was there anything else that you had specifically targeted to achieve in that match particularly?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me I wanted to return well. I think Wim told me the last time I played her I wasn't returning too well, and for me that's something that I really have been trying to target during this tournament.

I feel like it's been working out pretty well. I also think my serve wasn't too great today, but my returns really helped me a lot, which is something that I wouldn't be able to say, like, even last year.

Q. First of all, I'd like you to congratulate with some Champagne since we are not there and we are sorry we are not there with you. Second, I'd like to know if you still remember how you lost a match, because it's more than one year. What would happen if you would lose one match? Would be a great pain or somehow you would expect it has to happen?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, I don't expect to win all my matches this year. That's honestly somebody can give me a medal, anybody can give me a medal if I win all my matches this year, but I don't think it's possible. You know, tennis players, we go through ups and downs. But for me, I only hope that my ups and downs are less drastic this year.

I do remember what it feels like to lose a match, very vividly. I remember it here, and I remember how I was feeling and what my mindset was.

Honestly, it still makes me sad to this day, so, yeah, it's quite a lingering memory.

Q. Only three players in the Open Era have won their first four Grand Slam finals. That's yourself, Monica Seles, and Roger Federer. I'm wondering when you hear that stat, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? What's your reaction to that stat?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, my reaction is that that's very amazing company. I hope that I can, you know, have, like, one grain of how their career has unfolded.

But, you know, you can only wish and you can only just keep going down your own path. But, yeah, it's definitely something crazy to hear.

Q. I know you're an admirer of Daniil Medvedev, who like you is going into a final this weekend on a 20-match win streak. Curious what you watch of him and what you make of his chances tomorrow?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I was kind of rooting for Tsitsi, so, yeah, kind of sad it didn't go his way.

I wouldn't really say I watch Medvedev, like all his matches throughout. I honestly just watch, like, him engaging the crowd. That's kind of what I like from him. But I know he's a fantastic player. I have seen him, like, upsets -- his upsets. I'm honestly really looking forward to that match. I just want to see, because I know Djokovic is so great on this court, and he's going for ninth Australian Open, which is crazy.

So, yeah, I think it's going to be a very fun match.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think there is a difference in my emotions and the way that actually the last time I won here I was kind of playing off anger, in a way. Just because I felt like I wanted to stamp my place on the tour. So I really wanted to win back-to-back US Open and Australian.

And this time around I'm more I would say at peace with where I am, and I'm honestly just happy to be playing a Grand Slam in a pandemic. So, yeah, I'm just more peaceful now.

Yeah, I think when I was younger I was just happy to get to the final. So there is this feeling of satisfaction. You know, you get to the final and you're satisfied. When I was younger, I really didn't know any better. I didn't I guess put my entire heart on the line. But now after Indian Wells I feel like I have just been trying to just fight everything that I have in the finals and I think it's definitely showing.

Yeah, so I remember her in Florida, as well. I remember she was always a good player. You know, she always had everything, like every shot. She played in an age group that was older than mine until we started playing the ITFs. I remember I played her in one tournament. She beat me really bad (smiling). But I was just thinking, like, you know, she's definitely going to become, like, a professional tennis player. Very highly ranked. I didn't know that she thought anything of me, but for sure there were a lot of players that sort of kept an eye on her, and she was, like, one of the people that you knew was gonna win something really big along the line.

Honestly, forehand and serve, she had those even back then.

Yeah, yesterday I didn't eat Japanese. We went to a restaurant because it was sort of like our last night here, in a way. I think we just ate seafood, so, yeah. I'm glad it worked out in the end. But, yeah, in regards to the little kids, I would just hope that for me I think the biggest thing that I can do is inspire people, inspire kids, and it really makes me happy whenever I see them just cheering me on. I have no thoughts in regards to play style or anything like that.

Yeah, I think for me, me and my team, we have just been through a lot together, even though it's theoretically only been like a year that I have been with them. But, well, except for Nana, Nana has been with me forever. I think, you know, just training with them in LA during, I guess, the quarantine and the preseason and everything like that, it just really brought us closer. And for me I feel like I do better when I'm not thinking about myself in a way. Like, for me -- I don't know. When I think about my team, I get motivated more than when I think about myself, if that makes sense.

Yeah, I would say it definitely is a good luck charm. I don't know. When I walk through the tunnel and see my name on the board, I just feel really inspired, like, I want to have another, you know, another year added to that board. I think just touching it, it lets me feel like I get more power. Maybe it's a bit more of a superstition, as well.

Hmm. Oh, man, I blanked out. Honestly, not really. It maybe is -- all the emotions feel the same right now, so not really (smiling).

Yeah. For me I'm very grateful for her. She's a bit of a rebel, but I don't think you guys know that, but a very calming presence. Always cries very easily. But, yeah, she's like my shopping partner, too, whenever we are in, like, places that we can go shopping. I'm very grateful for her. She's really amazing, and I'm so glad that, you know, we're able to find each other, and she's been on my team. I think everyone gets along, and for me that's the best thing that I could hope for.

Yeah. They were speaking in Japanese, and it's really funny. I think Wim actually is starting to pick up some Japanese now from how much we speak Japanese in the team. So maybe he'll speak some (smiling).

Okay. Well, for me, I don't try to put too much strength in my returns. I think just placement is really important and also the consistency of how I put it in. For me, I think when I was younger, I used to try to blast the returns and that's why it didn't go in as much. Yeah, now I'm just thinking about placement and percentage of going in.

Yeah, I mean, I think it's helped. It's put less pressure on my serves, so mentally I think it's doing better for me.

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