Naomi Osaka says "every kid growing up would want to win" Career Grand Slam, reveals Novak Djokovic's advice for moving on grass

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
Namit Kumar

Naomi Osaka will be on the hunt for her maiden Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles over the next two months as she looks to complete the career Grand Slam. The 23-year-old has won four of the last six hardcourt Majors but has had notoriously poor runs in Paris and London.

In an interview with BBC Sport ahead of the 2021 French Open, the Japanese opened up about a host of topics, including the career Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic's advice ahead of the grasscourt season and her off-court activism.

"Every kid growing up would want to win all four of those (Grand Slams)," Osaka said.

After winning the Australian Open in February, Naomi Osaka's form in the lead-up to Roland Garros, where she has never made it past the third round, has been far from ideal.

The 23-year-old was defeated by Karolina Muchova in the second round in Madrid and by Jessica Pegula in the first round in Rome, meaning she will go into Roland Garros with just one claycourt win under her belt.

"I realised I was a bit sad because of my loss (in Madrid)," Osaka said. "And then I began thinking 'when was the last time I was sad that I have lost a match like this?' And I realised it's been a while."

Delving deeper into her claycourt woes, Naomi Osaka said that recovering after sliding for a shot was proving problematic.

"I actually do trust myself sliding [on clay]. I think it's just the process of moving after the slide which is a bit difficult," she said.

Grass is not Naomi Osaka's strong suit either. The Japanese never competed on the surface as a junior and has never made it past the third round at Wimbledon.

Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon 2019
Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon 2019

The Japanese recalled an episode in 2019 when she slipped and injured her knee, and said she had received tips from five-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic on how to deal with her problems on grass.

"I would say last year [2019] I was definitely very scared, because I actually got injured once on grass because I slipped and I hurt my knee. So it definitely scarred me a little bit," Osaka said.
"It's a bit funny, I talked to [Novak] Djokovic about it, because I wanted to ask him how he moved so well on grass and he said that even though he falls a lot, he keeps getting up and he keeps trying different things. So I guess I'll try that the next time I'm on grass."

It was monumental, but you can't expect change to happen overnight: Naomi Osaka on Derek Chauvin verdict

Naomi Osaka wearing a mask with the name of George Floyd at the 2020 US Open
Naomi Osaka wearing a mask with the name of George Floyd at the 2020 US Open

During the interview, Naomi Osaka also opened up about the battle against social injustice.

The 23-year-old, during her triumphant 2020 US Open run, made a powerful statement in support of the 'Black Lives Matter' campaign as she highlighted racial injustice by wearing masks that bore the names of African Americans who had been killed in recent years.

One of the masks bore the name of George Floyd, a Black man who died last May after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for over nine minutes. The incident sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Naomi Osaka said the verdict was monumental, but cautioned against expecting instant change in the fight for racial equality.

"I think it can't be something that's flipped overnight," Osaka said. "I feel like this is definitely something very monumental, but they say Rome wasn't built in one day, so I would say you can't really expect things to change overnight.
"I think just making people talk about things and being able to understand different people's perspectives and how they think about things is a great start."
Edited by Arvind Sriram
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