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January 15, 2022

Naomi Osaka

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: You've had a lot of success here in the past. How have your preparations been the last couple of weeks?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, they've been really good. I feel really excited to be here, just to I guess play on Rod Laver again, something that makes me really happy.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You had the little niggling injury that forced you out the other week. Do you feel like you're fully fit, firing, ready to take this one on?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I think -- you know, I heal quite fast. I'm as good as I can be in this current moment. But I also think, like, athletes, we have niggles all the time. It's kind of impossible to play a slam without feeling something.

Yeah, I'm just aware of that and I'm aware that, like, you can't be perfect all the time, so...

Q. Can you tell us what you took from the first week coming into this tournament?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think what I took from the first week was that I was a bit, like, nervous about how I would play after being on the break. I think I learned with every match that I played. For me, that was the most important part. Hopefully I'm able to apply the things I learned from the first tournament into the Australian Open.

Q. The other defending champion on the men's side obviously is having quite a situation. What are your thoughts on what's going on with Djokovic, the shadow it's casting over the whole tournament?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, honestly for me, in a way I don't really think my thoughts are important. Even if I say what I think, I've seen people say one side, I've seen people say the other side. I also know, like, one person's opinion isn't going to change anything, it's just going to cause my controversy.

I think it's an unfortunate situation. Like, he's such a great player and it's kind of sad that some people might remember in this way. But I also think it's up to not tennis players, it's up to the government how Australia is deciding to handle it.

Yeah, I know what it's like to kind of be in his situation in a place that you're getting asked about that person, to just see comments from other players, it's not the greatest thing. Just trying to keep it positive.

Q. You've won four Grand Slam titles, so you know what it takes. It takes a lot of inner strength and determination. Do you think that could be having an effect on Novak and how he's approaching things that are happening off the court in terms of the legal process and vaccination?

NAOMI OSAKA: Honestly, I don't know him that well. I feel this is a question you have to ask someone that's close to him. I only know him as the tennis player. I don't know him as a person, so...

Q. The other week you talked about your team, working with them again after your break. How do you see yourself in relation to your team? Obviously tennis players, you hire the people around you. It's not normal compared to other sports. How have you found that over your career?

NAOMI OSAKA: I found that, like, having the right team is really important. You're with them almost every day of the year. It's kind of like your energies mesh together. If one person is kind of off balance, then it kind of messes up your whole flow.

I feel like it's really important that we all communicate regularly because we want to make sure we're on the same path, we kind of see the same goals.

So, yeah, I feel like it's definitely putting the puzzle together, and you have to find the right pieces.

Q. A lot of players say one of the toughest parts is splitting with a coach. What is that like?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I would say there's definitely a really big transition period. For me, I've found it hard but also exciting in the way that you know you're going to find someone new that will bring new things to your game. As a person, I want to always evolve. Just finding that right person is something that's kind of a thrill.

Q. On your road ahead, when you look down the draw --

NAOMI OSAKA: Please don't tell me (laughter). I'm the type of person that I don't look at the draw. I only look at the person I'm going to play.

I was literally out somewhere yesterday and someone told me about Barty. Don't tell me about anything past that. I'm just trying to get past the first round.

Q. How would you describe what playing at the Australian Open on these courts means to you?

NAOMI OSAKA: I would say that playing in the Australian Open means a lot to me. Of course it's not the first slam that I won, but I feel like starting the year off here really kind of builds momentum throughout the year.

I also think, like, there's like a different feeling I get when I come to Australia. Everyone is really warm and welcoming. I just remember all the tough battles that I've had here.

It's definitely a very positive feeling.

Q. It was announced today that both tours and the four slams have agreed to have some sort of Netflix documentary behind the scenes, kind of like the F1 one. What do you think of that idea? What was it like for you to have cameras following you around the whole time? Would you agree to be part of the one they're going to do for the tours?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think it's definitely really exciting for the tour because there has to be a way to sort of build the audience and build more engagement. I think this is definitely going to help a lot.

For me, when I did my own documentary, it was definitely a bit strange to have cameras following you. For me, I actually really liked having my own little mini camera that they assigned to me. I thought it was a really good way to journal what I was feeling.

But, yeah, it's going to be interesting to watch how they edit it and what kind of format they decide to use.

Q. Two and a half weeks into being down in Melbourne, how settled do you feel? Have you been able to work out any of the nerves or stress that can come with ending a break and jumping straight into a slam?

NAOMI OSAKA: I guess I'll have to answer your question after my match.

But, yeah, I think the approach I'm taking on this slam is a bit different from all the other ones. I brought a journal with me, so I've been writing how I feel every day. I've, like, went out to the store and bought candles and incense so I built a routine in my room because I knew I was going to be there for a little bit.

Yeah, other than that just trying to have fun with my team, knowing there's a lot of players that would love to be in the position that I am in right now because being in the main draw of a slam is definitely a goal.

Yeah, just taking every day one day at a time.

Q. You had some nice things to say about Ash's work ethic, the fact she never complains on court. There's clearly a high level of mutual respect between you both. How positive is that to chat with, practice with such a leading player so genuine and down to earth despite her success?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, for me I think she's the ideal No. 1. She's so consistent. I saw last year all the sacrifices she made to, like, travel without coming back to Australia. I knew that must have been really tough.

But, yeah, honestly last year I only practiced with her one time. It was at the French Open. It wasn't that great for me. Yeah, I think she's really amazing. She's always so positive. Her and her coach, they're always really nice to everyone that I can see.

So, yeah, I really like her a lot.

(Naomi's answers to questions in Japanese.)

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, so I actually don't know anything about my first-round opponent. I find that to be a little bit rare. But knowing Wim, he's going to come at me with like a booklet of information, some of which I won't process.

It's really exciting to be in times like this. You play new players. You kind of see new faces. I feel like it's kind of, like, refreshing.

Hopefully I won't be in for a shock. If I am, then I wish I'll be prepared in that moment.

I hope I'm as prepared as I can be. I've had that injury like four to five times before so I know how it feels, I know the severity of where it is at right now.

I'm thinking that I'll be good for the tournament. If anything happens, I'm sure NaNa will fix me right back up, so yeah.

I haven't watched "King Richard" yet, but I heard it was really good. I downloaded it on HBO Max, but then it expired before I could watch it. I'm hoping to find a different way to watch it.

Yeah, like literally everyone that I've talked to about it has said it was really good. I think that's really rare. Hopefully I can find a way to, like, legally watch it soon (smiling).

Yeah, I think I've been defending champion like three times before that, and I've clearly never been able to defend it. But I think there's of course added pressure. You always think about it more often than not.

But for me, I just want to come into this tournament playing well. I think that bottom line if I play well, I'll be able to get far. If I happen to lose, then that's something that I can learn on and keep practicing and hopefully evolve from that.

But currently, yes, I am a little bit nervous about having that 'defending champion' title on me, but like this is a whole new year and it's technically a whole new tournament, so...

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