Naomi Osaka’s uneasy crowd in the spotlight


PARIS — A self-described introvert, Naomi Osaka has to learn to deal with global stardom on the fly.

At times, 23-year-old Osaka has been brought into the limelight the most. At times, she has sought that central role. Since emerging as an elite tennis player and Grand Slam tournament champion in 2018, she has had an unusually eventful journey: full of great success on and off the court, but no shortage of dramatic, unexpected growth and suffering. .

who is osaka, on monday highest paid female athlete In this world, walked away from the French Open After his first-round victory, a dispute with tournament organizers over his participation in post-match news conferences. She announced last week that she would not hold any press at the French Open, one of four Grand Slam tournaments, citing concerns for her mental health. on Monday, he elaboratedHe said he had “triggered long bouts of depression” since his victory at the United States Open in 2018. “I’ve had a really hard time dealing with this,” he said.

“It’s been just an incredible three years for her to digest,” said Jim Lohr, a performance psychologist who has worked with athletes since the 1980s, including tennis players like Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Novak Djokovic, but not Osaka. No. “When you consider social justice issues and COVID and everything else, there’s a lot for sure for anyone.”

Take a look at some of the experiences Osaka has had to navigate:

Osaka was considered a potential breakout star from adolescence. She had easy grounding power and a brilliant serve reminiscent of a young Serena Williams. But agents also believed that his multicultural background could help him connect with fans internationally. Osaka was raised primarily in the United States by a mother who is Japanese and a father who is Afro-Haitian.

What she was missing was a breakout result. ito BNP Paribas arrives at the Open In Indian Wells, Calif. Unseeded and ranked 44th, she rolled through a draw in the desert, defeating key players such as Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep, then finished at No.

Osaka didn’t come close to dropping a set in her final three games, making the tough task seem easy, but the hard part was to come: the victory ceremony in which her fear of public speaking made it difficult for her to get through the speech.

“The thing is, I prepared and everything, and I knew what order I was going to say, but then when he called me, I panicked,” she later said. “And then I just started saying what came to my mind earlier, which is why I feel like I kept pausing in the middle of my sentences, because I just remembered something else I had to say. So, Yes, that was very embarrassing.”

In her first Grand Slam final, Osaka managed the moment with exceptional poise and precision, beating 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 at the packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

but match got upset In the second set, Williams clashed several times with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, citing three code of conduct violations. Violations resulted in an increase in penalties, with Williams being docked a point and then a game.

Many in the crowd were angry and confused, unfamiliar with the penalty rules, and the booing continued during the victory ceremony as Osaka pulled down his visor to shield his eyes and cried.

“It’s the most painful way any champion has won their first major,” ESPN analyst and former major player Pam Shriver said Monday.

Again, for those sitting in front of the tennis court, Osaka seemed like the easy part.

Williams tried to rectify the situation: during the ceremony placed his hand around his much younger, much less experienced opponent and asked fans not to boo. Osaka has repeatedly made it clear that he has no ill-will towards Williams.

On Monday, when she announced her return from this year’s French Open, she said she had been facing “long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018.”

Whatever psychological challenges Osaka faced after New York, didn’t stop her from winning her second consecutive major singles title at the 2019 Australian Open. The victory placed her at No. 1 in the rankings, but she surprisingly separated from her coach Sasha Bazzino, was unable to regain her form in Australia’s and subsequent tournaments.

At Wimbledon, she was upset in the first round by Yulia Putintseva on grasslands that did not suit Osaka’s big-swing power game, as well as the hardcourts of New York and Melbourne.

In the post-match news conference, Osaka was subdued, answering questions politely but financially. About halfway through his scheduled time, a British reporter asked if it was difficult for him to adjust to his new level of fame. Osaka turned to the moderator and asked if she could leave as she was beginning to shed tears.

“I’m sorry, we have to leave it there,” the moderator told reporters, as Osaka hurriedly left the room.

There was no excitement following Osaka’s win at Ashe Stadium, but there were still powerful emotions as she faced Coco Gauff, an American 15-year-old full of talent and high hopes for her US Open debut.

The match was a route one as Osaka won 6–3, 6–0. Gough was hit in the head during and after the handshake, but Osaka, who had practiced at the same Florida academy as Gough, felt a connection.

she wanted to help and Convinced Gough to share the stage with them for a post-match interview on the court so that Gough could connect with the fans who cheered on him.

Osaka explained, “I wanted him to hold his head high, not to be sad off the court.” “Like, be aware that she has achieved a lot, and she is still very young.”

It’s tempting to take a more nuanced view of that moment when viewed through the lens of this year’s French Open. Osaka has now made it clear that she believes athletes should not be forced to speak to the news media after the loss. But that night in New York was poignant, and Gauff was applauded.

Now 17, she returned the favor on Tuesday, offering her support to Osaka in Paris. “She’s just a really nice person,” Gauff said. “I hope she can move through this. Mental health, it’s a dear subject to me, and I feel for her.”

The coronavirus pandemic shut down the tennis tour for five months in 2020, and Osaka spent time working on her game at home in Los Angeles with her new coach, Wim Fisset. She also became involved in social-justice and police-reform movements. In May, Osaka flew to Minneapolis Her boyfriend, rapper Corday“To pay our respects and make our voices heard on the streets,” he said, shortly after the killing of George Floyd. wrote in an essay in Esquire.

She returned to tour in August with a renewed awareness of the power of her stage. At the Western and Southern Open, she won her quarterfinal match and then announced that she would not play her semifinal against Elise Mertens. Joining athletes and teams in other professional leagues, she was intent on drawing attention to the issue of police violence against black people.

“If I can start a conversation in the majority-white game, I consider it a step in the right direction,” she said in a social media post.

He started with more than just a conversation. The United States Tennis Association, the WTA and the ATP jointly announced that they would halt the day’s play to support the stand against social injustice and racial inequality. Osaka won their semifinal match The next day, she withdrew from the finals to manage a hamstring injury, and then won her second United States Open title. Before each of his matches, she went to court wearing a mask To bear the name of a black victim of racist violence.

Osaka defeated Victoria Azarenka in the final and improved to 3–0 in the Grand Slam final. The young champion who had once struggled through a victory speech has found his voice.

It was, in part, the memory of her strong 2020 season that made Osaka’s pre-tournament announcement in Paris so surprising. In the first season in Melbourne, she was determined, win the second Australian Open Despite the quarantine, bubble life and two match points, he had to save against Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round.

But that belief proved to be momentary. She lost early at the Miami Open and then earlier on clay in Madrid and Rome.

Before the start of Roland Garros, it announced that she wanted to protect her mental health By not talking to the news media during the tournament. This surprised outsiders and insiders and sparked controversy with tennis officials.

Osaka won her first-round match over Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday, but was fined $15,000 for skipping a mandatory news conference and threatened with default if she continued to violate the rules. On Monday, she went back, and she would take a break from touring for an indefinite period. Her attempt to take some refuge in the silence instead generated more global chatter and distraction. but it can also be watershed bun How professional tennis accommodates players with mental-health concerns.

Osaka experienced her own challenges with depression and “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the news media.

American player Sloane Stephens said on Tuesday, “I think there definitely needs to be a more open dialogue on what not only him but everyone who visits the tour has to do.” “I think we don’t talk about it enough. I support him, and I appreciate his speaking up, because maybe it will help other players and other people to speak up.”

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