'Things I did wrong': Naomi Osaka's admission in mental health furore

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Naomi Osaka, pictured here speaking to the media at the US Open.
Naomi Osaka speaks to the media at the US Open. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka has admitted she holds some regrets about the way she withdrew from the French Open when threatened with being kicked out of the clay-court grand slam.

The defending US Open champion has ruled out any future repeats of her abrupt withdrawal, saying she would have handled the controversy differently if given the chance.

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The four-time grand slam champion dropped out at Roland Garros after skipping post-match interviews with reporters, saying it was damaging for her mental health.

Osaka subsequently skipped Wimbledon as well, her actions raising global awareness of the mental challenges facing world-class athletes.

Speaking in a room of reporters on Friday with more tuned in virtually, the 23-year-old Japanese star said she would do things differently if put in the same situation again.

"I feel like there's a lot of things I did wrong in that moment," Osaka said. 

"But I'm also the type of person that's very in the moment, like whatever I feel I'll say it or do it. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.

"I think there's a lot of things I learned to do better. Of course, I don't feel the same situation will happen again. 

"I'd say maybe think it through a bit more in the way that I didn't know how big a deal it would become."

Osaka, who broke down in tears over a question at the recent Cincinnati Masters, said she was happier to have people asking questions in person rather than getting them over audio and video monitors.

"Definitely it feels better to see the person," she said. 

"It's really off-putting just to be seated in front of a screen. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I feel, like, a lot of nerves. But it feels much better to be talking to a human."

Naomi Osaka, pictured here in action at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Naomi Osaka in action at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Osaka, who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, has played just one event since then, losing in her second match last week in Cincinnati.

"I know I haven't played that many matches. I know that I haven't even gotten to a quarter-final," Osaka said.

"Actually I feel pretty happy with how I'm playing. I feel pretty confident with where I am right now. 

"I'm not declaring that I'll do amazing here. I'm the one-match-at-a-time person. Hopefully it will work out in the end."

Osaka says she has had to adjust to feeling people look differently at her when they watch her play, a factor that could be a factor with full capacity crowds being allowed at the US Open after spectators were banned last year due to Covid-19.

"It will definitely feel a bit different. I don't really know how to describe it, but I kind of had to get over the feeling of people's gazes feeling a bit different to me," she admitted.

"At the same time I started to tell myself that it is what it is. I did what I did, so I can't really change people's perception on me.

"It might make me feel a little bit nervous. But first rounds always make me feel a little nervous. 

"Maybe I can just attribute it to that. I guess I'll find out when I'm in that situation."

with AFP

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