Naomi Osaka has been on a hiatus since the US Open earlier this month, where the Japanese declared that she didn't know when she'd play next. But in a recent appearance on the HBO show The Shop: Uninterrupted, Osaka revealed that she is likely to return to the court soon.
The show, hosted by basketball legend LeBron James, sees athletes and celebrities from various fields talk candidly about their life experiences. Naomi Osaka appeared on the latest episode and among other things reaffirmed her love for the sport and her desire to compete again.
But this time around she simply wants to simply play for herself; winning and losing would be slightly less relevant for her.
"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."
Naomi Osaka further explained that she had started feeling like she didn't have much autonomy when it came to tennis. The 23-year-old believes she was centering her on-court performances on others' opinions rather than just focusing on herself and being content with her career.
"I started to feel like that power was being taken away from me," Osaka said. "And the way that I felt, like, I wasn’t playing to make myself happy and I was more concerned about … what would people say about me."
"I used to love being competitive but recently, the longer a match was the more stressed out I became" - Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka feels that the expectations of outsiders caused her so much anxiety that they ended up dimming her competitive edge. The Japanese explained how she went from loving the challenges that came with a tough on-court battle to dreading them, as they made her increasingly stressed.
"I used to love the competition and just being competitive," Osaka said. "Like if I were to play a long match, the longer it was the more fun it was for me. And then I just started to feel - recently - the longer it was the more stressed out I became. But I just needed a break to go within myself."
This sentiment is a continuation of what Naomi Osaka had conveyed in the immediate aftermath of her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open. Osaka had announced at the time that she would be taking a hiatus from tennis as she didn't feel happy competing anymore.
"Recently, like, when I win, I don’t feel happy," the 23-year-old had said. "I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match."
But based on her most recent interview, it appears that Naomi Osaka is doing everything she can to figure things out. Her fans will be hopeful of seeing her competing at the highest level again very soon.
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