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February 6, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Two years since you won the title here. Does it feel like a lifetime ago?

NAOMI OSAKA: It feels like a year and a half. I kind of cut last year in half (smiling).

So, yeah, I don't know. Last year felt kind of surreal. I'm not sure if it entirely counts as two years yet.

Q. The big news with yourself has been the withdrawal. Can you tell us about the issue, how it's feeling at the moment?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, well, anyone that's kind of followed me for a bit knows that, like, I've kind of had, like, a slight shoulder thing since like 2018 in Beijing. It kind of flared up again because I played, like, a lot of matches back-to-back.

But, yeah, for me, my main focus is, like, hoping I can rest enough before the Open.

Q. Is that made more difficult by the fact that these lead-up events have gone close to the Monday start? Was that a factor in your decision?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say it is a factor because for me, I don't normally play the tournament right before a slam. But I felt like it was really necessary to, like, get matches in. I think everyone felt that way.

I'm kind of sad that I wasn't able to play today. But I think in the end it's the right decision.

Q. With the COVID restrictions, is there any difference with how you can be treated by trainers or physiotherapists in the Melbourne Park area?

NAOMI OSAKA: Hmm, I don't think so. No, I don't think so. I just think during the quarantine it was a bit hard because we had, like, limited time. As of right now, not really.

Q. Have you had time to look at Yoshiro Mori's comments? Any thoughts on that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I did look at the comments. I didn't think they were good. I also want to hear the reasoning behind those comments. I also want to hear the perspective of everyone else that, like, surrounds him.

Q. Do you think he should resign?

NAOMI OSAKA: I'm a tennis player. For me, I feel like -- hmm, wow. What an interesting subject matter to be thrown. Do I think he should resign?

I think that someone that makes comments like that, they need to have more knowledge on the thing that they're talking about. I feel like that was a really ignorant statement to make. I'm not sure, like, if it was a statement he made during the press conference or if it's a quote that was taken while he was having a private conversation. I didn't read fully into that. So I'm not sure if it's a situation where someone should demand that he resigns or if it's just something that people need to make him understand that what he said wasn't right.

Q. Obviously we're in a completely different situation with this Australian Open, with the pandemic. Do you now approach this championship in any sort of different way to 12 months ago or two years ago or even the US Open? Is it different or do you follow the same processes?

NAOMI OSAKA: I feel like I follow the same process to an extent, but I'm also aware that things can change at any second. Like a couple days ago when we were told that the matches were pushed back. So I think my mind is always trying to find a routine.

I think in the case of the Open this year, I am definitely more flexible.

Q. You talk about your preparation during quarantine. How different was it typically to how you would prepare for a Grand Slam? What would you normally train?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, in Adelaide we had a schedule that we had to follow so that we wouldn't see any other players. Sometimes we'd play at 7 in the morning. Sometimes we would play at, like, 10 at night. Normally I just play at a set time every day instead of being scattered throughout. I wouldn't feel like I would rush because we only could play for like five hours.

But I'm saying all that, and I'm not complaining or anything. I don't know. Normally, instead of being in Adelaide for two weeks, I would also rather be here.

Q. How many hours would you typically do in a day that close to a Grand Slam?

NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I would probably maybe like an extra hour just to, like, chill a little bit more. But I think the time was really used wisely.

Q. With the situation being basically told when you were training, to be an elite athlete, you have to have a level of control over everything that you eat, the timing of your training. Do you think the people who will be most affected by the quarantine at this tournament will be the players who are used to a strict regime or the players who tend to be a little bit looser with their preparations anyway?

NAOMI OSAKA: I think probably the people that are used to a strict routine. I think in life you have to be adjustable. It's probably the people that aren't able to adjust quickly that are having the hardest time here.

Like for me, I feel like I'm a person that can adjust quite quickly. I don't know. I know that everyone is sort of finding their own coping, their own way to cope in this situation, so it's going to be interesting.

Q. You were saying there were times when you were practicing at 7 in the morning. What time would you wake up for a 7 o'clock practice? Would you have anything to eat or drink before? What would be your routine with such an early practice?

NAOMI OSAKA: Well, in Adelaide I had jet lag, so I woke up at, like, 4 for almost a week straight. Normally if I were to practice at 7, I would wake up at, like, 6:20. I would try to get as much sleep as possible.

Honestly, when I was in Adelaide, I ate a lot because for me that was the most exciting thing to do in the quarantine (smiling). It wasn't that great for me.

But, yeah, I would kind of eat the same thing every day, like granola, coconut milk, stuff like that. Yeah, definitely ate too much during quarantine.

Q. Do you drink or try wine? That area is so famous for wine in Adelaide.

NAOMI OSAKA: So I don't, like, like to drink or anything a lot because as a kid, someone told me something like it's ruining your body or your liver. I just want to give myself an advantage for as long as I can.

But my coach -- I was given wine, and I just gave it to my coach. Maybe he will tell you if it was good or not.

Q. How important is the world No. 1 ranking to you? Is No. 1, becoming a dominant No. 1, is that driving you?

NAOMI OSAKA: I would say yes, but it doesn't bother me as much as it used to because I remember when I first got to No. 1, I think nobody really acknowledged me as No. 1. I remember I was in Indian Wells, and I was talking to someone. They were like, What side of the draw are you on? And the No. 1 is always on the top side. It just made me think like, wow, people don't really see me as No. 1.

I feel like since that point, two years ago or was it last year? No, two years ago. I just kept trying to, like, prove myself. I felt like that wasn't really a good mindset to have.

I feel like right now I'm at a really good place, like I just want to play every match as hard as I can. If it comes to the point where I'm able to be No. 1 again, I'll embrace it, but I'm not really chasing it like that any more.

Q. I was looking at the Lakers garb that you're wearing. What have you learned from the Lakers example, and LeBron James in particular, seeing what they've done during the pandemic in the championship season and since?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I thought it was really nice to watch. I thought just them being able to overcome adversity like that is something that I feel like is a really good value.

For me, it's always interesting to see what LeBron does because I feel like he's such a big figure in the way that any little thing he says or does can be stretched in a positive way or a negative way.

I think looking at that while I was in New York and after I won the US Open was something that I really learned a lot from.

Q. What did you hear from LeBron after the statement you made with the attention that you drew to the Black Lives Matter movement when you were in New York?

NAOMI OSAKA: I just received a lot of support from him. My agent knows people close to him. He was sending me messages of things that he said. I thought it was really nice.

Q. You said you're not chasing No. 1. Simona Halep has been in the top 10 in an unbroken streak for like seven years, hasn't dropped out of it since she made it. What is your thought on that sort of streak, and if that is something that you would like to be able to match?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, definitely. I think that's something that's incredible. For me, I feel like I want to have that sort of consistency.

I don't know. My career, it's been kind of up and down a lot, and people don't really know when I'm going to do well in a tournament or when I'm not. I think my ultimate goal is just to, like, at least reach the quarterfinals or better at every tournament I play, and hopefully win most of them. If not, then just to give a really good performance.

But I think being in the top 10 for seven years is something really good. I don't know why my mind immediately went to I hope I don't get injured. Like imagine you get injured and you drop out of the top 10. But, yeah, I think that's something I definitely want to strive towards.

Q. Mari, she's obviously had a lot of opportunities along with you to kind of dabble in her artistic side, with the manga, even you guys have done photo shoots together for sponsors. What is your reaction to being able to not provide, but to be able to open up these avenues for her to be able to show off her creativity to the world?

NAOMI OSAKA: For me that's the biggest thing I think. I always told myself if I was able to give back to my family and the way that they've given, like, so many things up for me, that's something that I think is the most important part.

So for me, I clearly wouldn't be here without my sister. She's the person that pushed me when we were little. I had no drive at all. So just hitting with her every day gave me something to look forward to. Just for her to be so artistic, for us in a way to do everything together, that's why I go to her for most of my projects. She helps me out a lot. That's the least that I can do to repay her.

Q. You've won slams now in three consecutive calendar years. That puts you in pretty exclusive company on the women's tour. Only Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Serena have won slams in three consecutive calendar years. How does it feel to be included with those women?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, definitely feels incredible. Feels a bit weird when you put it that way, as well. I think just watching all of them growing up, wanting to play at the same tournaments as them, let alone winning the same tournaments they had, is something I always dreamed of as a kid.

It's weird because when people started saying, when I won my first two slams, that I won a slam in every year, I remember last year when I lost early here, I was thinking, I hope I can win a slam this year and continue that streak.

Wimbledon got canceled. So then I went to New York. I was like I really hope I'm able to win this because it would kind of feel really bad if I wasn't able to win a slam.

I'm glad I was able to get that done and hopefully I'll be able to keep that streak alive.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: I think that's a really interesting question just because I'm not sure if I can compare them like that. But I think in New York everything felt faster because we didn't have to quarantine there as opposed to here. I honestly haven't been going out that much so I can't really say I enjoy it here more than New York or anything like that just because whenever I'm in tournament mode, I usually just stay inside. So it does feel like New York in that way.

But which one do I prefer? I'm not sure. I can't answer that.

Yeah, I would say definitely my favorite sport growing up to watch was basketball. But when the Olympics were on, I really liked figure skating and gymnastics and running, of course, because Bolt is like my favorite athlete. But basketball was my favorite to watch. For me it was the easiest to understand because my dad used to play when he was younger. Like, when I was living in Florida, I really loved the Heat, especially when it was like Wade, Bosh and LeBron. I was a bit of a bandwagon fan. When I moved to L.A., I just thought it would make sense. Also I really loved Kobe. That's sort of why I'm kind of -- why I like that team now, not because LeBron is there or anything.

Hmm. I feel like for me, I don't really put myself in, like, a box like that. I know that there's a lot of, like, East Coast versus West Coast stuff. Of course, influences are all very different. I just like to enjoy both sides.

Yeah, of course I'm definitely looking forward to the Olympics. I think just because I've been asked questions about it since 2016 when I didn't play the Rio Olympics. There's definitely a lot of passion towards that. I completely understand no matter what happens, whatever is safe for everyone. I actually got asked a question, I don't know his name, about his comments. I think if you're in a position like that, you really should think before you say anything. I don't know in what situation he said those things, but I think it's really uninformed and a bit ignorant. I think that the people surrounding him should either inform him about the things that he's saying and how it's affecting the feelings of a lot of people around him. But yeah.

Yeah, I definitely feel really sad if it doesn't pull through. Also at the same time I know that there is a much bigger thing going on. Honestly, it's sort of more important than playing tennis right now. But I feel -- I don't know. I would feel sad if it didn't happen, but I understand because I know there's a bigger picture. For me, I'm kind of taking it one month at a time or one tournament at a time anyway. Currently, right now, I'm in the Australian Open. That's definitely what I'm thinking about. The Olympics would definitely be the highlight of my year if it happens.

Yeah, I feel like I have fun during Grand Slams. Probably the first round is going to be very nervous or I'm going to feel very nervous because that's what's always going to happen to me. But I think the way that I'm playing now, the way that I was able to play my matches that I had the past couple days, it gives me a lot of confidence. All in all I think the world's going to still spin even if I win or lose. I just have to enjoy myself and try as hard as I can. I think, of course, I'm going to be nervous for every match that I play.

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