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April 30, 2021

Naomi Osaka

Madrid, Spain

Press Conference


7-5, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You have not lost to Misaki before. Is there any extra challenge in playing a fellow Japanese player such as you did today?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, for me I definitely do feel a lot of extra pressure just because, you know, you obviously want to play well against a player that's from the same country.

For me, I never really know what to expect because I feel like she always plays better when I play against her, so it's a bit tough to manage controlling my emotions. But I think I was able to do it pretty well.

Q. Now that you've gotten your first clay match under your belt for the season, are you feeling more comfortable on this surface?

NAOMI OSAKA: I feel like I am. I also feel like I started playing better in the second set, so movement-wise I think it can only get better. Hopefully as I put in more hours on the court, it will just keep improving.

Q. Apologize for the randomness of this question. You're obviously such a successful tennis player, but you're also a successful businesswoman off the court. You just launched your skin care company. You have your art NFTs with your sister. A ton of stuff going on. How are you able to be so successful on both the court and as a businesswoman?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me I feel like on the court it's quite different from off the court. I'm really lucky to have been presented the opportunities that I'm able to capitalize on based on, you know, playing tennis well.

So I think for me everything that I do outside of tennis is for fun. I take it more as a challenge and also a way to clear my mind from just thinking about tennis matches.

Q. I just wanted to ask you, when you're learning to feel more comfortable on clay, how easy is it to remain patient and not get annoyed by bad bounces, the lines? Playing on clay can be really irritating when things are not going your way.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say for me the only memories I have of clay right now since the last time I played was two years ago, so I would say the first two days that I was training this year with Wim I was very irritated, actually, just because I'm used to coming back and kind of feeling the ball and not feeling like I have been away for a bit.

But on clay I think it's much different. You have to adjust your feet in a different way. The bad bounces are definitely really troubling.

But I talked to Wim and he said that that's normal and you just have to stay calm. More importantly, I think it's experience. So hopefully I get more experienced.

Q. Do you actually have to change your game style on clay, or do you try to play your natural way?

NAOMI OSAKA: I try to play my natural way. I would say if I start thinking about grinding too much, I become a bit of a pusher and it's not really good for me (smiling).

Yeah, just of course you want to adapt to the clay and do things that are beneficial, but hopefully I don't change too much.

Q. Speaking of your 2019 clay season, obviously that's the last memory you have of playing on the surface. Is it a good memory or is it a not-good memory? Because it was a strong clay season, but I know that the way it ended maybe wasn't the way that you wanted. What was your general takeaway from all of that that year?

NAOMI OSAKA: I actually felt pretty good on it, like looking back, it's something I'm actually happy about, because when I was playing on clay that year, I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. And I actually thought the matches that I lost, even though I didn't play in Rome, but the two matches that I lost it was more mental than it was physical. Like, I didn't feel uncomfortable sliding or I didn't feel that tired. So I'm actually really excited to get that mindset back and to start feeling more comfortable on clay.

Q. With your preparation and everything, getting ready for the clay season and this event, how did you feel on the court, you know, against Misaki playing in match conditions, all that sort of stuff, compared to how you were training? Did you feel like it was a boost of confidence, like, Okay, I actually feel better in match play? Or did you still feel there was a bit of a gap how you want to be feeling out there on the court?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, you know that I'm a perfectionist so I'm never happy. Okay, I can't say I'm never happy. Yeah, I always feel I could do better. I definitely felt like there were some things I can do better this match, and I hope that my next match that I play I can implement those things. Even though my opponent is going to be slightly different, I hope that there is a base or a core that I can always go back to.

Q. I wanted to find out from you, this is your first match today since the Miami Open. How important was it to be able to take a few weeks off from the tour to chill, get away from match competition and reset?

NAOMI OSAKA: For me, it was really important because I feel like I do better when I'm able to take time and analyze. And especially in the Miami loss, I felt like I was just too -- I don't know how to describe it, but I felt like everything was sort of loud in my head.

So I just wanted to take the time and feel grateful to be on the court and be excited to come back and play a tournament.

Q. Taking a break every once in a while seems like it's something that you benefit from and enjoy doing?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say that. I would also say that I'm lucky, like I'm fortunate to be able to afford to take a break. I know people talk about how I don't really play that many matches -- or not many matches, but many tournaments. But it's something that, you know, I feel is good for me. I think it's working pretty well, so...

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say of course you never want to lose in the first round, so there is also those nerves coming into you, but it definitely is different playing a person from the same country. For me, I know that I don't play fellow Japanese players often. When I do, I feel like it's always Misaki, but it definitely does feel different. I also feel like I'm expected to win just because I'm higher ranked, so there is a lot of things that come into my mind, yeah.

Yeah, I actually, whenever I play her or practice with her, I always feel like she's not -- like she should be ranked higher just based on like the pace of her ball and what she's able to do. I think she has a really good forehand. It's really rare for me to feel dictated around, but there is times that during the point she's able to capitalize on the shorter ball and just spread me far, so I always thought she was really good at that. Yeah.

Yeah, I think on clay the heavy ball definitely is very important, but it's funny that I feel I haven't been playing that many of them. I feel actually that I have played more of the heavy topspin balls on a hard court surface. So I'm not sure if it's because I'm just getting used to the bounce, but I would love to be able to hit more of those balls. I think that -- I don't know. I feel like I'm progressing, so I can't be that hard on myself, but hopefully I can do more of those.

I actually didn't train for that long, but I'm not going to say how long I trained because it really depends if I do well in this tournament. But, yeah, I would say that we really worked hard for the time that I did train. I did a lot with Yutaka, like sliding and not really weights but more body weight things. I think he definitely really helped me out a lot. And just being with Wim on the court a lot and learning from him, I think it really benefited me.

Yeah, actually after Miami I was able to spend time with my parents for, I would say, a solid week. It's honestly been maybe two years since I was able to do that, so I felt like it really helped me out. I felt really rejuvenated. And then I don't know. I was just able to calm down and look at life from a nonbubble perspective, so it was really nice. When I finally came back to tennis I felt like it was something that I really wanted to do as opposed to looking at the watch and seeing that it was time to practice.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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