February 12, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
N. OSAKA/O. Jabeur
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Ons is a very tricky opponent. Just talk us through the match today.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, today was really tough for me because I didn't know what to expect. I just thought I fought really well, and for me that's the biggest thing I can take away from the match.
Q. There were a lot of would-be distractions swirling around with all the rumors about what was coming with a possible lockdown which is indeed happening. How would you describe what the day has been like for you having to put that all aside to compete?
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, I didn't really pay much attention to it because my main focus for today was my match, and now I feel like I'm thinking about it more definitely. Yeah.
Q. You've said in the past playing in front of crowds can be a bit of a distraction because you like to show off, I think were your words. How do you feel about no crowds for the next five days? Do you feel a little disappointed?
NAOMI OSAKA: I think for me, the biggest concern is -- not concern, but thing is we're guests here, so whatever works for the safety of everyone, because I know there was quite a few people that weren't really happy with us being here in the first place, so I think we're all just really happy to be playing anyways, and for me, I've played New York without fans, and it went really well for me.
I'm sad, but I know what the priority is.
Q. You have Muguruza next and I found it quite surprising you're going to play her. What do you make of that matchup?
NAOMI OSAKA: I've practiced with her once, but it was on grass, and I was younger. It was maybe like a couple years ago. But I just remember being really impressed by her, and for me, I've watched her like win Wimbledon and win the French Open when I was younger, and I've always wanted to have the chance to play her. So for me, this is really exciting.
Q. The tournament is going on because you guys have been deemed essential workers. How do you feel about being described as an essential worker?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I'm not really sure. That kind of seems a bit funny. But I don't know, I don't make the rules. I'm just here just trying to -- I don't know, just having fun.
Q. Does playing Ons help you prepare for playing Garbine, and what are you expecting from her? Is she a tricky opponent?
NAOMI OSAKA: So I honestly have no idea. For me I feel like Ons is a very different player, but that's just judging from the matches I've watched of Muguruza. I think Ons is definitely more of a free spirit, if you say, and I think for me, Muguruza might be a bit more like my taste. Like she's not as unpredictable as Ons is. But I'm just basing this on like the previous matches I've watched.
Q. On Sunday it's Valentine's Day and the tournament isn't usually played on Valentine's Day, the holiday of love. What do you consider the role of love in the sport of tennis?
NAOMI OSAKA: Wow, thanks for reminding me I have to send a text. Let's see, the role of love.
I don't know, like Love-15, Love-30, Love-40?
Honestly, that's a very interesting question. I feel like you would be able to answer it better than me, and all I'm thinking about is the text and phone call that I have to make, so...
Q. How about the importance of loving the sport to be successful at it?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think you can't be successful at a sport that you don't love or enjoy playing. I mean, you probably can, but I feel like it's a waste of time to spend your whole -- or the majority of your life doing something that you don't like when there's so many other things you could do.
For me, I feel like it's really important just to be passionate about the things that you spend a lot of time doing.
Q. What were you pleased with the most from today? Like you said, she's a free spirit; you don't know what to expect. How did you deal with that, and what were you pleased with the most?
NAOMI OSAKA: So I thought for me, my biggest thing I wanted to focus on today was my serve and my return because those are the things that I can control. I don't know what would happen during the point, but I do know that I can control if I can get the return back and I can control how I start off my serves. So I was just basing my entire plan around that.
For me, I felt like I wasn't playing that well, like my unforced error rate was probably really high today, but I'm really happy with how I fought.
Q. Players always have to sign the camera really quickly after the match. I'm wondering, do you put any thought into it at all? Do you think, this is what I want to sign during a match or do you just sign and move on?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, for me I just sign my name, yeah. Maybe I should be more creative or something. I don't know. Maybe next time I'll write -- that's assuming if I win next time. But yeah, if I get the chance, maybe I'll do something better.
Q. You and Ons both strike me as very incredibly naturally talented ball strikers. I'm wondering from your perspective and in your evolution as a player, how hard have you had to work over the years to replicate what seems to come very naturally on a high level as you have?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think for me, everyone has always said that I'm naturally -- I'm a hard hitter, but I think with Wim over 2020 and 2021, we've just been working on sure, I can hit hard, but what is the heaviness of the ball, too, and I think that is really important because it pushes the other person back.
There's actually a ton of work that I've put in.
I'm actually okay that people don't notice it or if people don't notice it because I feel like the more you broadcast that you're working hard, the more, like, pressure you would put on yourself. It's cool to be a bit under the radar.
(Naomi's answers to questions posed in Japanese.)
NAOMI OSAKA: No, honestly, I don't really have negative feelings going into matches anymore. I was kind of more excited than anything to play her because I always watch her play on TV, and it looks really fun. Like her shot choices, I would never do them, but it looks fun to like watch. And for me, I feel like just having that variety in the game, I'm glad that everyone doesn't play the same, you know? For me, I wasn't negative going into the match, I was more excited.
Yeah, I think definitely it will be a bit -- you know, actually, though, I don't really pay that much attention outside of the court. I feel like while I'm here, I'm really embracing the crowd, but if it comes to the point, well, it will be the point where there is no crowd, I know that I'll just focus within myself. I'm not too worried about it.
Well, yeah, I don't leave my room. So it's okay for me.
Yeah, I feel like today she definitely did put a lot of pressure on my second serve, and I felt like I had to do more, which is why I probably double faulted more than usual. But I actually think the quality of my second serve was pretty high. I just think she's a really good returner. So I wasn't really too worried about it, and I feel like I only got broken once, and I think it's because I made careless decisions on the baseline rallies. Yeah, I wasn't too worried about it.
So honestly, I don't feel it. I'm not the type of person that's very sensitive. You could probably give me a racquet that string tension is like three pounds over and I wouldn't feel it at all. So I don't really know if the court is faster or not, but I'm assuming since everyone else is saying that it is, it probably is. But yeah, I don't know. I'm probably not the best person to ask that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports