In a recent interview with Number 1 Shimbun, Kimiko Date expressed her support for Naomi Osaka over the Japanese's struggles with the media spotlight. Date believes Osaka's personality has impacted the way she deals with the media, and advised the four-time Slam champion not to take "everything to heart."
Date was one of Japan's most famous athletes during her prime and had to deal with her fair share of pressure back in the day. She initially retired at the age of 25, before making a comeback 12 years later.
Date, who has practiced with Osaka on a few occasions, pointed out that their similarly quick ascent to the top had left them unprepared for the media scrutiny that followed.
"Osaka and I have one thing in common. We rose up the rankings very suddenly and we weren’t really prepared for what it meant," Date said. "Her personality is one that takes everything to heart in a serious way and I think this exacerbates the problems she’s had. I think she takes questions in a different way and is very serious in the way she handles questions."
Date also explained that there are different ways to deal with the media, and that Naomi Osaka possibly adds pressure on herself by taking her obligations too seriously.
"You can deal with the media in many ways; you can say everything to them, or a little bit or nothing. I get the impression Osaka actually takes her media obligations too seriously. Maybe she thinks she has to answer all their questions and so feels pressure that way," Date added.
Naomi Osaka must find a way to handle the pressure: Kimiko Date
During the interview, Kimiko Date also pointed out that the rise of social media has contributed to the problems faced by Naomi Osaka.
"I really understand her feeling. When I was rising in the rankings, it was mainly just the Japanese media and there was no internet then, but everything Osaka does is reported worldwide, so the pressure she feels is so much greater."
Nevertheless, Date highlighted the fact that no top player is immune to stress, and urged Osaka to find a way of dealing with her problems.
"I think all the top players are affected by stress that affects their mental health, but they have to find a way to deal with these problems. You can’t refuse to attend press conferences just because you lose. You have to find a way to deal with the media," Date said.