Naomi Osaka's recent troubles with excessive media scrutiny and the pressure that comes with being a top athlete have taken a toll on her mental health. Osaka is currently on a hiatus from the sport, having declared after her third-round exit at this year's US Open that she wasn't sure when she'd play next.
Now, in a recent discussion with Marion Bartoli on Tennis Majors, French journalist Carole Bouchard has offered some advice to the Japanese star. Bouchard believes Osaka should follow in the footsteps of Maria Sharapova, another tennis star whose career was largely spent under the media glare.
Sharapova defeated Serena Williams to win her maiden Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2004, which made her an overnight sensation. The Russian's career took off following that win, but with that came a ton of off-court responsibilities too - including photoshoots, endorsement dealings and brand duties.
Naomi Osaka's career trajectory has been rather similar. The Japanese's win over Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open brought her immediate global popularity, which has also made her the highest-earning female athlete in the world.
But according to Carole Bouchard, the key difference between Maria Sharapova and Naomi Osaka has been the way they have managed the pressure from their additional commitments.
"How to be a businesswoman, but to be in charge of what you're doing, to be in charge of your destiny, in a way, saying no to a photoshoot if you don't have a say; Maria has really dealt with it in a way like: 'I'm not going to be this pretty thing everybody's doing a photoshoot about and having no say about anything'," Bouchard said. "She’s really dominating what's happening around her."
Bouchard further stated that one of the reasons for Naomi Osaka's current predicament could be that she feels she's not completely in charge of her life. The Frenchwoman believes having full autonomy over her off-court activities is something Osaka could learn from Sharapova, who was always assertive with everything that she did.
"I think Naomi is maybe feeling she’s losing the control over what's going on around her because she's not in power," Bouchard said. "And I really think there's a lot of things to learn from Maria Sharapova."
Naomi Osaka is likely return to tennis soon
In a positive development, Naomi Osaka recently appeared on LeBron James' show where she declared that a return to tennis could be on the horizon. Osaka claimed she is feeling the desire to compete again, but that she wouldn't attach too much importance to winning or losing in the future.
"For sure I love the sport," Osaka said. "I know I'm gonna play again, probably soon because I kind of have that itch again. But it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I'd just have the joy of being back on the court. Just to, like, you know, that I’m doing it for myself."