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February 16, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/Hsieh S.W.

6-2, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Tell us a bit about the challenge of playing Su-Wei.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I feel like every time I play her, it's really challenging because I never know exactly what she's going to do with the ball.

I think today I just really focused on my game plan. I think it was kind of very clear what I thought I had to do.

Q. How would you compare your form now to back in 2019 when you played her?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me, I don't really look too much in the past just because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I feel like if I look too much in the past, I'll compare myself too much.

But I think compared to last time I played her here, I was given more clear directions. I talked through it more. For me, I also feel like I've experienced, like, what it is like to play her in those tough battles, kind of how to avoid that situation.

Q. You said on court you always watch Serena's matches. Why is that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Like, when I say that - how do I say this? I keep the TV on the tennis, right? But if there's an interesting match to watch, I'll watch it. It's just kind of interesting to watch her form. You know what I mean?

For me, I grew up watching Serena, Federer, Nadal. It's just more of a habit than anything. But I feel like everyone in the tournament watches her. Like, whenever I go to the locker room or whatever, there's always just people lounging around and stuff.

Q. In your last match you said you struggled to tap into your instincts until you smashed your racquet. Today it looked like you were able to do that from the first set. Is that something you felt you were able to do from the beginning?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I felt like today I told myself just to be really intense from the beginning. I could compare it to something, because I've never played Muguruza before. This time I played her so many times, I felt like I knew what to expect and that I couldn't afford to be lazy with my footwork or anything. I didn't want to play three sets today.

So, yeah, I felt like if it was something to compare to, I told myself to be intense like how I was against Cornet in my first match here.

Q. Do you see Ash as your biggest opponent here? The fact that the crowds aren't here for her, does that make her job harder?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I haven't seen that many of her matches because she plays at night, and I kind of go to sleep. But I would say she looks really fit, as opposed to me. I've kind of been eating during the quarantine (smiling). She looks really good. Her scores look, like, really clean.

I wouldn't be surprised if she gets to the final. I don't think anyone would be. For me, she's the No. 1 player in the world, so it would be weird if I don't see her as, like, a rival or a threat.

Q. We're all praying we get out of this lockdown after five days. If you have to play Ash, would you prefer to play her behind closed doors?

NAOMI OSAKA: No, I would want people to come. I feel like that's something for her, something that would be a big memory. I noticed that ever since she came on -- are you an Australian journalist?

Q. Yes.


Q. Does the accent give it away?

NAOMI OSAKA: No. Sometimes I have to, like, clarify. I don't want to mess it up or anything (laughter).

Ever since she came on, you guys -- that's rude. I would say people want her to do well here. So if you imagine she gets to the final and there's no crowd, that's really sad. You know what I mean?

Even for me, I've played the finals before with no crowd. It's definitely memorable. But I'm sure for her, if she reaches the finals and there's no crowd, it would be memorable but kind of in a sad way. I'm sure she would want a crowd. For me, I would want a crowd, too, even if they don't cheer for me. That's just the way life is. It's just more fun.

Q. Are you superstitious? During the commentary on the match, one of the things I noticed big-time was how you avoided the lines, and you stepped over the 'Melbourne' sign.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I -- yeah (smiling). Yeah, that's probably superstition. I don't know. Yeah...

I don't know when this started happening, but I just don't like -- I don't know if they have that saying here, but they say, step on a crack, you break your mother's back. Then I just, like, started to really try avoid stepping on lines and stuff ever since then.

Q. If Serena does make it through to the semis, it's going to be the first time that two NWSL franchise owners do battle on the tennis court. What do you make of that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, if that happens, then I'm sure a lot of people will be excited. For me, I played her in Adelaide, like an XO, and it was really fun.

I don't know. I'm sure we'll represent our teams very proudly.

Q. What message do you think young, up-and-coming athletes can get from the fact they know two players of your stature aren't just sort of duking it out on the tennis court, but at the same time they're making initiatives to raise up other female athletes?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think for me it's more of a unity thing. I know when I was coming up, there was a lot of female athletes that even still are really supportive.

I think just to know that there's possibilities outside of the court to show support, to -- I don't know. Yeah, just to, like, show your support.

Q. Double barrel question.

NAOMI OSAKA: Double barrel? Okay.

Q. Do you think about records? One thing the WTA have put out is that every time at a major you've reached the quarterfinal stage, you've gone on to win the championship. That's the first aspect. The second thing is, because we don't know who you're going to play, consider playing Serena and also Simona so we have some preview looks for coverage.


Yeah, for me, I don't really care about the - what would that be called - the stat, yeah, thank you. Just because I've only been to, I guess, four quarterfinals. It feels something like 20. That would be cool. But four, it's not really doing too much for me.

I would be more impressed if I didn't lose in finals. If it says 10-0 in finals. But the fact is if I don't reach the finals, I lose in the fourth round or the third round. For me, I'm happy to be more consistent. I think I'm being more consistent since New York, so that's the ultimate goal for me.

On who I'm going to play...

I played both of them before I think multiple times. Halep, I don't really like playing her. She's someone that's really tough, someone that gets the ball back every time. For me it's definitely a mental and physical battle.

Of course, the same goes for Serena. She's Serena, someone that I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court.

But, yeah, I feel like them playing their match tonight is going to be really fun. Definitely all of you guys are going to be watching it, so you can write your own preview better than probably I could talk it.

Q. You were speaking about the two possibilities. How would you describe your level of confidence regardless of who the opponent is when you think about your own game?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me, I think my confidence was raised after I played Muguruza the other day just because she's such a quality opponent, and like my back was against the wall. Somehow I still had opportunities.

In that way I wouldn't really say it's confidence but more like I'm at ease with how my game is right now.

Q. If you do end up playing Simona, you haven't played since both of you became Grand Slam champions, which is a weird thing to think about. Because of that, would it feel as though it's similar to a first-time meeting or would the baggage of the other five matches play into it?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I would kind of say if you haven't played someone in, like, two years, it doesn't count any more just because tennis is evolving so much, people adjust their games, they switch coaches, they play better, they play worse. It doesn't really matter.

The base would be the same. I would definitely say for someone like me and her, that so much has happened within that time period, it probably is a bit irrelevant. I don't know if that is a strong word.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you came into this match with a plan. In the past, when you were younger, it seemed like you were an instinctive player. What is it like going into a match with a plan, following it?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say for me today it was really important to have a plan just because she's an opponent that I'm not really sure what's going to happen. So just having something to structure myself and not get carried away with what she's going to do was definitely really important.

I feel like being able to receive information is something that I've been learning, and it's something that I feel my experience over these past couple years has helped me with because I think a couple years ago I probably wouldn't be able to understand what I was supposed to do that well here.

But, yeah, definitely I feel like I'm getting better at being able to stick to a plan. I know my attention isn't that great all the time, but yeah.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, Yutaka is someone that's very important to the team. It's actually kind of funny. I think whenever someone who doesn't know me joins the team, they usually are kind of on edge. For me, he was very strict in the beginning, but I think just me being very, like, immature loosened him up a lot.

Now he, like, jokes around and stuff. But, yeah, I think we kind of had three off-seasons just because Australian Open was pushed back, and I also didn't play the French Open, so I started pretty early with my training. But we did it all in L.A. It was really fun. Repetitive, but it was fun.

I think the most important thing is that we talked a lot. Me, Yutaka and Wim, we started to trust each other more, we learned more about each other. Maybe that was more important than the training.

I just laughed because it's something that I expect from her. Like, if I hit a really good cross-court, she's going to hit a winner. It's just something that I expect. But it's always funny to me when it happens because I always feel like, you know, most people can't hit a winner on that, but she somehow manages to do it all the time. She's just so casual about it.

I think she came to the net today. She just went like this. For me, it was just funny because I would be shaking at the net trying to figure out where I'm supposed to hit. But she just, like, walked to it almost. It's fun to see that game style.

I think for me, I prepared myself to be frustrated, but I actually wasn't frustrated at all today. I was able to see clearly everything. Someone told me that when you get angry, it's a lack of understanding. So I started to think that whenever I got angry in matches, it's definitely because I wasn't understanding what was going on.

Now that I feel like I have a better understanding of what I'm supposed to do, like having a plan today, I was definitely able to see things more, so yeah.

Yeah, I think for me, the biggest thing I've improved is my mentality. This is something I've been able to I guess level up over the years. I feel like I understand myself more and I understand the position that I put myself in.

I don't know. We're coming to the point in the tournament where every match is difficult, every match is going to be a fight. Of course, at the start of the tournament it was like that, too. This is kind of where, like, guts come in. I think everyone's very nervous, everyone wants to win. So managing that is definitely important.

Yeah, definitely I actually was working on my returns a lot during the off-season, even before like in New York, that was something that we really tried to focus on.

For me today, it was a bit difficult to understand her serve because it was a bit softer than, like, my last match, but she would sometimes go where I wasn't expecting her to go.

But, yeah, I think definitely having a higher return percentage is really important, just to like try to get the ball in play against her. But it's also important to place the return because she's just going to hit a winner off of it if I hit it softly.

Wow, when you're so bad at drawing, you can't tell (laughter). It's a cat, but I kind of changed my mind in the middle of drawing it, so that's why it kind of probably looks like every animal in the spectrum.

Okay, so I wasn't going to do anything, but I saw everyone else writing cool things. I was like, This is my chance to hopefully draw something cute. Then it turned out ugly, so... And you can't even tell what it is (laughter). So, yeah, it's a cat.

Yeah, so that's definitely been a plan for me on my side because everyone that I've played, they're really strong on both sides. So for me, I felt like hitting deep in the middle kind of neutralized the ball for a second, or however long it took for me to get back into the point. So that was the plan for me for honestly most of my opponents. I think I was kind of lucky there because today playing Su-Wei, it was a bit difficult because I felt like on the backhand side, whenever I would return, she would hit straight down the line and it would be a winner. I felt like I had a better chance hitting deep in the middle in the rallies as well as the return.

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