Naomi Osaka recently took part in a Q & A session with her American fans during the ongoing US Open. The Japanese provided some interesting responses to the questions posed of her, while also revealing that the best gift she has received from a fan is a Pikachu hoodie.
Naomi Osaka's run at the 2021 US Open came to an unexpected end on Friday as she lost in the third round to Canadian youngster Leylah Fernandez. Osaka served for the match at 7-5, 6-5 up, but Fernandez fought back in style to oust the defending champion.
The Japanese was understandably distraught after her loss and, during her press conference she revealed that she would be taking a break from the sport. Osaka looked a lot more upbeat during the Q&A session with her fans, although it is likely that the video was filmed before her third-round match.
All the questions posed to the four-time Slam champion came from fans in attendance at Flushing Meadows. One of them asked Osaka to name the best gift she had received from a fan, and the 23-year-old picked the Pikachu hoodie she had received in Beijing.
"Probably a Pikachu hoody! I got that gift in Beijing," Naomi Osaka said.
A fan then asked Naomi Osaka to reveal the nicest compliment she's ever received from any fan. In response, the Japanese said that a fan once told her that she inspired them to pick up a racket again.
"Probably that I inspired them to get back on the tennis court," Osaka said.
Another fan asked Osaka if her primary goal of playing tennis was to inspire people. The Japanese answered in the affirmative, and added that it warms her heart to see children turn up to watch her practice sessions.
"For me, I feel like I love to play to inspire people," Naomi Osaka said. "I love when little kids come up and watch my practices."
Osaka was then asked for her thoughts on having fans back in stadiums. Tennis witnessed a surreal period during the early parts of the pandemic, when players competed in front of empty stands due to COVID-19 protocols.
But fans have gradually started to make their way back to stadiums this year, and the US Open has had full capacity crowds.
In response to the question, Naomi Osaka stressed that she prefers to play with fans in attendance. The 23-year-old explained that tennis players practice all their lives to savor the big moments in front of energy-filled crowds.
"For me, it's better to play in front of fans because you practice your whole life for those moments, so just to be in front of a crowd and to hear people's support and feel people's energy, is really nice," Osaka said.
Naomi Osaka reveals she had a poster of Serena Williams on her wall when she was a kid
During the Q&A session, Naomi Osaka also revealed that she kept posters of Serena and Venus Williams on her wall when she was a kid. She further pointed out that no male player enjoyed a similar position.
"I've had a poster of, I think Serena, of course," Naomi Osaka said. "Maybe Venus and then maybe, I don't think a male player!"
A young fan asked Osaka if she had ever received a gift from a kid. The four-time Slam champion revealed that a little child had once gifted her a "little trinket or a keychain," which she found to be "really cute".
"I have gotten a little trinket or a keychain from a little child, so it was really cute!" the Japanese answered.
When asked if she is a fan of any player, Osaka didn't take names but asserted that she loves watching sports because she enjoys seeing people reap the rewards for their hard work.
"I love athletes, I love watching people's hard work come into fruition, so I love watching sports," Naomi Osaka said.