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January 19, 2022

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

N. OSAKA/M. Brengle

6-0, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Talk us through the match a little bit.

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think I started really well. I feel like it was just a matter of adjusting. I think in the second set she adjusted to me pretty well, and I was a bit thrown off by that. I'm glad I was able to break her back when she broke me in the second set.


Q. Your hard court record overall, you're 46 wins and 8 losses in Australian Open, US Open. You won 18 out of your last 19 here in Melbourne. What is it that makes you feel so at home and comfortable on these courts where you have been nearly impossible to beat?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I'm not really sure. I feel like for me I just have really good memories here, like even when I was younger, going through qualifying one year, I don't know, I feel like, you know, having positive memories in a place, it always motivates you to do better, so maybe that's the reason.

Q. There was one I think particular forehand return that you hit like super, super hard, and it had me wondering -- I remembered back to when you played your first WTA event in Stanford in 2014, a couple forehands clocked over 100 miles per hour. You seemed at that time early you had more shots that were really maximum power from you, which I don't think you do quite as much anymore. Curious if that's something you wonder, if I hit the ball absolutely as hard as I can, like how fast it would be? Do you ever try to think what it's like dialing it up to full power again?

NAOMI OSAKA: I could try it, but it probably wouldn't go in (smiling).

But, yeah, I feel like for me, I only try to do those shots if I'm 100% sure it will go in, so that's why I don't really do it that often. That's probably why I did it a lot when I was younger.

For me, I don't really feel a need to attempt those shots as much right now, because I'm trying to, like, build the point and stuff, kind of build a better tennis IQ. Yeah.

Q. Attempting to just smoke a ball...

NAOMI OSAKA: It kind of is, but I want to win the point. I want to be sure that I'm going to win the point instead of risking it a little bit.

Q. It feels worse to miss than it does to -- like, it's not worth it?


Q. Curious about in the second set when you went down a break and looked frustrated, but then you recovered and got back really well. Curious how you feel in the moment and how pleased you are with how you handled that?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, in that moment of course I was really disappointed with myself, but I also think these are the type of matches that I need to play in Grand Slams to get broken and to figure out a way to fight back in really crucial times.

I thought that for me, you know, I kind of rushed a lot in that specific service game, and you could kind of tell I was a bit shaky. I made a double fault where I really shouldn't have made a double fault. But I tried to shake that off in the return game right after, and I think I did pretty well there.

Q. Brengle is kind of a notorious player, in the previous match she hit one winner and won quite convincingly in the third set. What's it like to play someone who kind of doesn't give you anything?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it was definitely interesting in the way that I remember when I was younger, I would watch her play in like the pro circuit, and she was kind of notorious for getting every ball back. So I just kind of took those memories from back then and tried to tell myself, like, you're probably going to make a lot of unforced errors this match, but it's something you have to do because you can't let her dictate you in this match in the way that, you know, she would try to, like, keep the ball in play.

For me, I feel like it was really important that even though I made a lot of errors at the net today, I thought it was really important to keep stepping in.

Q. You mentioned a couple of things there. One was about actually tennis IQ and having to go through those sorts of experiences of being broken. Do you feel like you're seeing those things come together? Is it a matter of working on both those things? Is it just time on the court? Do you see yourself piecing those different things together gradually?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think it's a matter of time on the court, of course, because, you know, matches are very different from practice. You can't get the same intensity. Well, I personally can't. Like I can never take a practice as seriously as I take a match.

Honestly, for me, I have just been getting really inspired watching other players play their matches. I'm learning from them and what they would do in certain situations. It's honestly been really fun this tournament.

Q. You responded to Twitter to Andy Murray saying he was watching you. What's that mean to you to see a tweet like that during your match?

NAOMI OSAKA: I didn't see it during my match... (Smiling.)

Yeah, definitely means a lot. For me it was a really cool moment. It's a little bit shocking, because when you're playing, you never really think about, like, the TV is broadcasting it and other people are watching. So, yeah, definitely really surreal. I hit with him once like three years ago, and it was like a memory that's really like dear to me.

It was really cool just to have someone like him talking about my game.

Q. That was in Brisbane you hit with him?


Q. What, for you, has been the biggest focus in making tennis fun again? Not just playing on the court but all the other things that go with being on the tour.

NAOMI OSAKA: I think for me it's like reminding myself that the challenges are fun, because you can of course win a match really easily, but I found like last year when it was getting really tough, I found myself to be quite aggravated.

I think that it should be the opposite. Like, when the times get tough, you should find yourself smiling more, because you know that those situations are the ones that make you tougher and stronger.

So I would say like changes in mindset like that.

Q. You talked on court a little bit about how you're kind of trying not to rate your performances after a match. I just wondered how that works on a practical level, like day to day with your coach, like after you finish a match, how does it differ now your process on analyzing kind of what you did in order to prepare for your next match? How does it work with your coach and even just yourself, your internal monologue, too?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say for me, like, I find every match to be very different. I find myself playing very different opponents, you know. On TV I guess they could look quite the same, but when you're playing against them, their shots are different. Their tempos are different, as well.

So I try to keep that in mind and not judge myself too harshly based on the scoreline, because I feel like even if you were to beat someone 6-2, 6-2 and the world thinks, Oh, she kind of cruised in that match, in reality there are times where it could be very difficult and you had to focus that entire match and it's mentally a bit draining.

I would say moments like that, because I feel like athletes, we kind of tend to rate ourselves on winning or losing or how the score is instead of more how we felt during the performance.

Q. Is that different to your approach before?

NAOMI OSAKA: I would say so, yeah. I think before I would focus a bit on the scoreline to rate my, I guess, my tennis. But instead now I'm just trying to think about if I fought for every point or, say, I got broken today, was I able to break her back, things like that.

Q. Looking ahead to your next match against Amanda Anisimova, how familiar are you with her as a player, just her game, as a person, because it will be your first obviously match against her?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I actually -- I wouldn't really call it playing, like we kind of did a charity match event before Indian Wells like two years ago maybe.

But, yeah, for me, I've obviously never hit with her or practiced with her or anything, so it will definitely be really new going into the match. It's really nice to see her around, because I heard of her story and on what happened to her, so it's really good, like she's pushing through it.

I think it's just awesome to see the younger generation doing really well, because I remember also being part of the younger generation. She seems like a really nice girl. Woman? Woman. She seems like a nice woman, so yeah.

Q. You mentioned that you had been watching quite a bit of tennis and being inspired by what you were seeing. I was wondering if you could, yeah, share with us what you've been seeing and what has inspired you.

NAOMI OSAKA: I watched Kyrgios' match last night, and honestly, now I'm feeling like it's not an Australian Open if you don't watch a night match of Kyrgios on John Cain. Like, this guy is literally always on that court.

But, yeah, I thought his serve was awesome. I don't think my serve percentage was as good as his, but it was really nice to see him back and, like, having the crowd so hyped up.

I really like watching Alcaraz. I don't know if I'm saying his name right. He's really good. His forehand, I wish I could trade my forehand for his forehand.

Yeah, it's really fun to watch other players. I think the energy in Grand Slams is really different from all the other tournaments.

Q. To focus off-court, you have been one of the more prominent voices on the issue surrounding Peng Shuai. I'm interested to know why you have felt compelled to draw attention to this issue. Is it morality, a personal connection, what is it for you that makes you want to speak on it?

NAOMI OSAKA: You know, I would say it's a little bit of both. I'm not the type of player that interacts with a lot of players. Not in like a bad way, I just find it really hard to come out of my shell.

Besides that point, if I see her, I would say hi to her and stuff like that. You know, you don't really -- this is a hard one to describe. I feel like if I was in her position, I would want people to care for me too. So it's like one of those things. Like I imagine myself in her shoes, and in that way, it's a little bit scary. But you kind of want to lend your voice and you want people to, you know, ask the questions.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I don't remember much from playing her so many years ago. Like I remember that I played her, but I don't remember anything about the match. I honestly only remember shaking her hand at the net, so I'm not sure if that was such a great memory to rely off of. Yeah, you know, like I feel like coming up off the circuit there are players that have a reputation, and she really had the reputation of, like, being a grinder and stuff like that. So that was the thing I guess I could work off of.

Yeah, I think like in the first set I wasn't really giving her chances, and so in the second set she started to hit with more pace and clearly on her backhand she was going for more. So I find that really interesting about how players have to adapt quickly. I would say, like, it was impressive how she was able to read where I was going to go, especially when I was at the net. I felt like I always had to play an extra ball.

Yeah, I would say that there's definitely more players that I don't know. I think that's also exciting, because you kind of get to catch up on the game while you're playing the tournament.

You know, there are a lot of familiar faces, of course. It's always good to see, like -- well, it's good to see everyone, but certain people like Ons and stuff is good to see.

Yeah, I think I would still consider myself a veteran because I have been here for a little minute. I don't think I would consider myself a seasoned veteran, which would have to have been here for like 10-plus years. Yeah.

Yeah. So clearly I can't really draw that well, so I always resort back to drawing the same, like, weird smiley face hand thing. Yeah, I always have a plan of what I want to draw, and then it never really ends up looking the way I picture in my head, so it's a little embarrassing. It's also embarrassing that my sister is a really good artist and I can't even draw, like, a proper smiley face.

Yeah, I'm not really the type that hangs around, if that makes sense. Like if I finish my match, I kind of just, you know, leave. I don't really -- it's not really by choice, but I've been trying to, like, say little -- how do I explain this? Like say what's on my mind more, I guess. Like if I see a player with nice shoes, I'd be, like, Hey, nice shoes. But I didn't do that last year. So things like that. Does that make sense at all? Sorry.

Yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely important. I've been, you know, really getting inspired by watching the men's matches. Like I watched Shapovalov play today, seeing how fast they get to the net and are able to read when to finish the point up there is something that I hope that I can get to that level one day.

But, you know, I'm working on it. I think that I need to read the ball probably a bit better, but hopefully, like, while the year is going on, I'll get better and better at it.

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