Naomi Osaka said on Friday that she was “concerned” about her comeback to the French Open, worrying that she had “offended” people when she controversially pulled out of the tournament in 2021.
The four-time major winner and former world number one withdrew from Roland Garros 12 months ago after being fined and threatened with a Grand Slam ban for failing to honour media commitments. Osaka, the world’s highest-earning sportswoman last year with a $55 million income, then took a break from the sport, revealing she had been suffering bouts of depression.
“I also didn’t like how I handled the situation”- Naomi Osaka
“I’m not going to lie. Like when I first came here, I was very worried,” the 24-year-old said as she attended the official press day for the French Open which starts Sunday. “I was just kind of worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would just kind of bump into them. Of course, I also didn’t like how I handled the situation.”
Naomi Osaka, who quit after only one match in 2021, did not compete in Wimbledon that year. When she cried on the court at Indian Wells in March this year after a supporter yelled ‘Naomi, you suck’ as she collapsed to a second-round defeat, there were still hints of her uneasiness in public.
“I was also very worried about this press conference because I knew I’d get a lot of questions. I think for me where I am right now, I wouldn’t want to say it hasn’t left my mind. Of course, I’m still thinking about it, and I’m kind of also prepping just in case I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. Yeah, for the most part, I think I’m okay,” she added.
Naomi Osaka claims that her recent traumatic public encounters have made her more reserved and less impulsive than she was in her junior and early career years. “I kind of feel I was funnier back then. Like I used to be able to say jokes and not really care if anyone got it. I could reexplain the joke and whatever. I feel like the thing that’s changed is like me trying to figure out the crowd. I feel like I’m a standup comedian and I’m trying to figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay.”
After a tumultuous and stressful year, Naomi Osaka’s world ranking has dropped to 38, leaving her unseeded in Paris. In the first round, she will face American Amanda Anisimova, the 27th seed and a 2019 semi-finalist. This year, Anisimova eliminated Osaka in the third round of the Australian Open. “I did this exhibition match with her in Indian Wells, and she completely killed me. So, hopefully I’ll get more than two points,” she said.