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February 14, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/G. Muguruza

4-6, 6-4, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Very close match today. Tell us how you pulled through that.

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm not really sure, to be honest. I think I was just trying to fight for every point, then it sort of led me to win. I don't know.

Q. What was going through your head those couple of match points down? You had the ace, then the next point was a little more challenging. What was the mentality as you stepped to the line?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I don't remember exactly, but I do think, like, in the first match point I was just thinking that I didn't hit a decent serve that entire game, so I should really focus on my serve.

I feel like my serve stats were pretty good that set, so I was just telling myself to do better.

Then on the second point, when the rally started, I just told myself not to push but also don't do something crazy and make a really bad unforced error.

Q. At that point you ended up going 22 points without hitting an unforced error to close out the match. Do you think that comes down to having so much big-game experience throughout your career?

NAOMI OSAKA: Possibly. I also think for me, I felt the entire match I was overthinking. There was a moment when I got angry and, like, hit my racquet on the ground. I feel like I released a lot of the thoughts that I had. It just made me go more into, like, instinct-based tennis.

For me, I felt like Wim told me so much information before the match, it wasn't really clicking. But the closer it got, the more I felt like I could rely on that information, yeah.

Q. It took me by surprise when you threw your racquet down. You don't do that very often. You're saying there was frustration, but were nerves involved and you were trying to shake that out?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I definitely would say for me nerves are involved. Nerves are involved in every match I play.

But definitely, I felt like this match I was very stressed. I think some people could see it because I wasn't really hyped, like I wasn't outwardly saying, C'mon or being positive. I wasn't really negative negative. I had a very consistent attitude, but it wasn't -- I don't know.

For me, I didn't really like the feeling that I was having. So, yeah, I think definitely I was trying to be really positive for these past couple of months. I'm mad at myself for throwing my racquet, but at the same time I feel like it unleashed the emotions and the nerves that I had a little bit.

Q. You hadn't played Garbine before. Maybe you practiced with her. What was the actual occasion like? Did you expect it to get to that 5-5 in the third set where you felt like you were battling to win?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah. Honestly I feel like whenever I watch her play -- I don't know. It was just fun to have the chance to play her in the first place.

What it felt like to play against her? I felt like I couldn't hit any ball at a slower pace or else she would immediately move me. I think that's why I made so many unforced errors, because I was sort of playing in a zone that wasn't comfortable for me.

But I also think that's something that you get when you play against a Grand Slam champion. For me, that's where I feel I play the best because I feel like I'm pushed really hard, yeah.

Q. How did it feel playing out there without having the crowd?

NAOMI OSAKA: I actually think for me, I'm not really sure what it would have felt like with the crowd just because I was so in my own head. I'm not sure if having a crowd would have taken me out of that zone and, like, pushed me to do even better because I feel like there were a lot of balls that I hit really badly, especially super easy balls.

But, yeah, I feel like if there was a crowd, maybe they would have enjoyed it a lot. We both would have fed off that energy. Maybe it would have been an even better match.

Q. With that match, it's surprising that's the first time you played one another, being high-profile players, but going into that, did it feel like a fourth round? A lot of us thought it should be the semis or a final of a major.

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, for me, I've never really been in that many semis or quarters. This is like my fourth time out here. So I just tend to take it one round at a time. If I have a good draw, if I have a bad draw, it doesn't matter, it's the draw that was given to me. I'm sure she thinks the same way. I can't really afford to waste energy thinking that I wish I played her in a later round. The only thing I can control is whether I win or lose against her right now.

Q. Looking ahead, you let out a bit of an audible sigh when you were told you were going to play Hsieh Su-Wei in the next round. Talk about the challenge of playing her, specifically the memories of playing her here two or three years ago.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me, I don't know why, the automatic thing that comes into my mind is, I just remember falling when I played against her. I just remember having, like, so many emotions just because I felt like there wasn't a lot of things I could control while I was playing her.

In a sense, whenever I play, I feel like the racquet or the ball is on my racquet. Whenever I play her, there's a bit of hesitation in that mindset for me. So, yeah, it's definitely going to be tough.

At the same time it's the quarters of a slam, so it would be weird if it wasn't tough.

Q. What is it about her game that is so challenging?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, have you watched her play (laughter)? It's like, What?

She's one of those players that, for me, if it was a video game, I would want to select her character just to play as her. Because my mind can't fathom the choices she makes when she's on the court. It's so fun to watch. It's not fun to play, but it's really fun to watch.

Q. Watching both you and Garbine, it seemed the few times you did react negatively was when you dropped the ball short rather than making an error. What is it like to play a match under that pressure, where you know if you drop the ball short, the point is probably over?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it feels really high-stakes. I think for me, it's really tough mentally because you know theoretically you haven't done anything wrong, but it's like as soon as you hit the ball short, the point's basically over and you're going to have a really tough time trying to get yourself back into an aggressive position.

So, I don't know. It's interesting to play matches like that because when you play, for example, a person of her caliber, you can't get away with anything. But then you play against someone else, you can kind of get away with shots like that. Just raising your game, it's a bit difficult.

Q. How important is it for Asian tennis to have two players in a Grand Slam quarterfinal?

NAOMI OSAKA: Did you say how important for Russian tennis?

Q. For Asian tennis.

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm so sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me.

Yeah, I think it's really important. For me, I grew up really loving Li Na. She was someone that I still love and look up to. Sometimes I just revisit her post-match interviews and stuff just for like a laugh. I just think it's really important for little kids to look up to someone and just strive to be I guess where they are.

For me, I've had so many tennis players that I love and admire, you guys kind of know all of them. But, I think it's definitely really important.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: I would say when I say I was intimidated by her, it's because, like, if you ever watch her play or do anything, she's just very professional. Like, I can't really get a sense of emotion or anything from her. I think, like, that's really cool. She's really cool for doing that. But, like, when you're playing against her, it's just really hard to read. Normally I can read my opponents or anything that they're doing, but against her it was just very... Plus she's tall. She covers a lot of the court. When you're trying to hit a winner, the box feels very small. That's what I mean when I say 'intimidating'.

As for the information, I feel like the things that Wim said to me were correct. But for me, like when I'm stressed, I don't really think too much. I think that's why later on in the third set when it got, like, 5-5, that's when I was able to start thinking back on all the notes that he said.

Yeah, for me, I actually felt really confident going into the last game, even though she was serving for it. I felt like if I could just rally a lot and go for the shots when I needed to. I thought that I was returning really well, maybe she would feel a lot of pressure. I wasn't too nervous going into the last game.

I felt like even if we had to play a tiebreaker, I could rely on my serve a lot. So I wasn't too worried.

I think today was just a battle. Like if I can just describe it in one word. For me, I feel like I'm very happy with myself for the way I overcame the match. I think maybe a year ago - definitely a year ago - I probably wouldn't have won this match. There are so many things that I was thinking about on the court that just would have blocked me from trying to win the match or trying to problem solve.

So, yeah, I just think being a bit more mentally strong was a good thing for me.

Yeah, definitely means a lot. I think there's a couple times I was blocked in the fourth round. I know earlier in my career I was blocked for the longest time in the third round. I don't know. I know a lot of people are saying whenever I get to the quarters, I go to the semis, finals, whatever.

I don't know. Every tournament is something new. Every tournament I face different opponents, face different conditions. It's amazing we're even playing this tournament right now. So I'm not too worried about my record or anything.

I think the biggest thing for me is just trying to play every match and every point. That's the only thing I can control right now.

Hmm... I don't really have something that I remember the most. If you're talking about matches, I think the matches I remember the most, for me when I'm having a very hard time, I remember my match against Brady. I feel like it helps me out a lot just because I've never had to physically and mentally fight so hard. I think about that match a lot sometimes, yeah.

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