“I’m The Type Of Person That Cared A Little Bit Too Much” | Naomi Osaka Returns From Mental Health Hiatus And Wins

After Naomi Osaka defeated her tennis idol Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open Finals, she became the first-ever Japanese Grand Slam champion.

However, not too far after that she revealed her battles with anxiety and depression. The four-time Grand Slam singles champion took some time off to focus on her mental health, sending shock waves through the sport.

Back In The Game

Now back in action in Melbourne, Australia, Osaka says she is feeling better after her time off and reveals her self-exploration to rediscover why she fell in love with the game of tennis.

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Osaka opened her 2022 season with scores of 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a win over Alize Cornet on Tuesday. The Australian Open champion played in one of the Summer Set of tournaments in Melbourne.

It was the first time Osaka returned to the Rod Laver Arena since her win at the Australian Open in February 2021. In September, her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open was her last tour-level match.

Point Of Reflection

“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” were the cryptic words Osaka said after that match.

In her Netflix documentary “Watch Naomi Osaka,” intimate moments showed Osaka constantly concerned about the pressures of being a superstar.

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Identity issues compounded this pressure as a biracial youth and an international symbol for Japan and Haiti. As a top-tier athlete, she was concerned if she let down the late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant even within her universe. He imparted jewels of athletics success to her before passing away in a January 2020 helicopter crash.

Emphasis On Self-Care

She took time off for a mental health break early last year by withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match. In addition, she also sat out Wimbledon before returning for the Tokyo Olympics and lit the ceremonial cauldron during the Opening Ceremony.

Other prominent athletes like Simone Biles followed her self-care journey. NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted that the pressure of carrying his country and maintaining his brand was taxing on his mental health.

Now that Osaka has returned and won her opening match in Melbourne, her goal for 2022 is to relearn how to enjoy playing the game.

When You Care Too Much

“I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the rankings, and I need to find a way to enjoy the game again, because that’s the reason I played the game in the first place,” Osaka after the win.

“It’s not like it ever completely went away, but it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year,” Osaka said.

Osaka was not flawless on her return. Cornet went on a five-game roll to force the match into a third set when Osaka was up a set and a break.

Life At The Top

Osaka got just over 38 percent of her first serves into play, had eight double-faults and 57 unforced errors, but countered that with 51 winners. However, the top-seeded Osaka only faced only three break points.

“I feel like I made a lot of unforced errors today,” Osaka said, “but I expected that because it is the first match, and I was really nervous.”

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Osaka is still adjusting to life at the top of her game, but her journey has been inspirational to all experiencing a mental-health crisis.


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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.