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February 8, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/A. Pavlyuchenkova

6-1, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Tough first round opponent. Talk us through your first match.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I feel like for me the most recent memory I have of playing her was in the Osaka final, so it's always really hard to play someone that good in the first round.

For me, I feel like it might have also helped in a way because I calmed my nerves because I felt like I couldn't afford to be that nervous.

But, yeah, it was a tough match.

Q. Was there a point today or a moment where you were especially glad to have the fans' presence there?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, throughout the match I was really happy to have fans there. I felt like there was more interaction than in New York because in New York it was just a generic crowd noise every point. Here it felt like they sort of weighed whether I made a mistake and stuff like that.

I thought it was more fun.

Q. You've been world No. 1 a couple times. Coming to a Grand Slam as the world No. 1, is there an extra pressure?

NAOMI OSAKA: I would assume it is for the person that is No. 1 (smiling).

Q. In your own experience.

NAOMI OSAKA: For my own experience, I feel like there is. Also my mindset is very different from other people because, like, I felt when I was No. 1, I had to do more. I felt like I had this responsibility to sort of try to carry it the way like Federer and the big three did, like how Serena was for such a long time.

I put a lot of pressure on myself that way.

I feel like whatever ranking you are, like if you're seeded, you feel like you have people -- it's like you have to win sort of, but you have to overcome that feeling.

Q. Obviously the world is very different now than it was a year ago. Playing your match today, did it feel like a regular Grand Slam around the grounds and in your preparation?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I haven't gone out or anything, but I do feel like it did remind me of last year. That for me is something really positive to take in. All in all, I don't know. I haven't walked around the grounds or anything so I don't know what it feels like to be a person in the stands like a spectator.

For me as a player, it felt pretty normal.

Q. You've spoken often about Serena. Venus just had an incredible performance today. Could you talk about her, any special moments with her, what she's meant for the game.

NAOMI OSAKA: Ironically I actually interact with Venus more. For me, I feel like I do talk about Serena a lot, but Venus is sort of the reason why Serena is where she is. Of course, I always love to pay homage to her.

But I'm being the little sister, so I kind of talk about Serena all the time because she's also the little sister.

Yeah, I feel like whenever I see her, it's really amazing just to watch, like, how much she loves tennis. I see her smiling so much nowadays, so it's really nice to see. She just has this aura of loving the sport and this infectious energy.

I hope that I can learn a lot from her.

Q. How would you describe what it's like to not have lines-people, and what do you think the future of that will be?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it took some time to get used to. But I feel like for me, it saves me the trouble of, like, attempting to challenge or, like, thinking about did they call it correctly or not. It actually gets me really focused.

I don't mind it at all. For me, I feel like if they do want to continue this way, I actually have no complaints about it because I think that there's a lot of arguments that aren't going to happen because of this technology.

Q. The other day you said when you were No. 1 people would underestimate you, you felt the need to kind of prove yourself. When did you change your mentality? What was the trigger for you?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, honestly I kind of had this whole, like, I need to do better, I need to sort of solidify my place and be consistent and somehow make other players respect me in that way. I had it for that entire year, that whole 2019. I think that also put a lot of pressure on me because I just felt in a way it was me against the world.

But, yeah, I think just after losing here to Coco, because she is sort of the person that I never wanted to lose to in this situation, just being the defending champion, losing to her in such a high-profile match, I think it really shocked me.

I actually played a match in Fed Cup in Spain that I don't know if a lot of people knew about. There's just a lot of stuff that happened there, surrounding that time, that it really made me think a lot about my life and what is the reason, like am I playing tennis to prove stuff to other people or am I playing to have fun because I enjoy it.

From there I just took that attitude and tried to, I don't know, move forward with it. It's something that I was doing in New York. I think that I'm doing it here, too, so...

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say definitely I was really nervous today. I couldn't really sleep last night. So I think for me that's normal. I can't sleep during, like, before finals and before the first rounds. Yeah, so definitely I was nervous. I kind of expected that because I always want to do well in slams. I never want to lose in the first round.

But, I don't know, I actually have a really good relationship with my team. I talk to Wim, I express how nervous I am. We sort of talk about it, you know, how hard we trained in the off-season. We acknowledge that this is just an opportunity and it's what we do with this opportunity that counts.

I think you might never see the goofy side of Wim because he's too focused on being like the professor character. But he's very goofy. He's such a nice person. I think that it's really an honor for me to have him as my coach because I've learned so much from him in this short time. I think that if things ever go back to normal, if there's like normal press following us around, you'll see he trips a lot, he's pretty clumsy. He sometimes does really erratic things. But he's super nice (smiling).

No, actually whenever I go onto a court, I have the good memories come, not the bad memories. Of course, there's a bit of a lingering feeling given that that was the last match I played on Rod Laver. But for me, I just have memories of playing so many tough opponents and somehow managing to win. Those are the memories that I feel.

Yeah, the outfit was something that me and Nike, we both liked together. Hopefully we aren't the only ones that like it and everyone likes it, too. I thought it was really interesting because I've never worn something like this before. It's kind of different from my US Open outfit. Yeah, that's sort of how that was decided.

I mean, for me, I always feel really good no matter what happens. Like, uhm, I don't know. It's something that I feel changes every year. But I think that I'm slowly getting used to everything that happens.

Yeah, I think definitely the matches that I played were high quality before this tournament. I think that there's a lot of things that I learned that I wished I could apply. I feel like that was something that during the off-season I really strived towards, like, having a better return and stuff like that. I think that in all the matches that I've played, I've slowly been doing better. I think that today I had a really good return.

For me, playing different opponents is kind of tricky whenever you want to keep improving something. But I think hopefully if I play more and more matches, there are things that I practiced that will get better.

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