Dubai: The real Naomi Osaka has finally attempted to step out from her own shadow.
In an interview with CNN Sport’s ‘Time Out’ series with Christina Macfarlane, the two-time Grand Slam winner from Japan has explained how she has been using the current lockdown period to come out of her shell.
“I think people know me as being really shy … I want to also take the quarantine time to just think about everything, and for me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep. And most of the regrets is due to [the fact] that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking,” Osaka explained to Macfarlane in the interview.
Osaka is known for her multi-ethnic background and her shy, candid personality. The 22-year-old further revealed how her shyness has resulted in decisions being taken away from her. “There’s a lot of times where I see myself in situations where I could have put my input in, but instead I’ve held my tongue and things kept moving in a way that I didn’t really of enjoy,” she said.
“I feel like if I asserted myself, I would have gotten the opportunity to see what would have happened,” Osaka added.
Born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, Osaka has lived and trained in the US since she was three years old. She came to prominence at the age of 16 after her win over former US Open champion Samantha Stosur while making her WTA Tour debut at the 2014 Stanford Classic.
Her tennis graph continued ascending as two years later, Osaka reached her first WTA final at the 2016 Pan Pacific Open in Japan while making her first entry in the top-50 of the WTA Rankings. And another two years later, Osaka made her breakthrough into the upper echelon of the women’s game when she won her first WTA title at the Indian Wells Open that was cancelled at the last moment in March due to the spreading threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Her biggest impact was still to come as Osaka defeated 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams in the final of the 2018 US Open to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam crown.
And now forced into a pandemic that is showing no signs of slackening, Osaka is discovering a new aspect of her personality. “I feel like I want to take this time to learn something new or improve because I’m pretty sure I won’t have this much free time ever again,” she related.
Osaka’s shyness has kept her from making contact with too many other fellow tennis players during this lockdown period. However, to her credit, she has enjoyed an Instagram Live with Venus Williams.
“It was kind of more intense than I thought it was going to be,” Osaka said.
“For some reason I thought we were going to be stretching, but yeah, we were doing a bit of movement drills and then lunges and stuff."
Born in Osaka — a designated city and capital of Osaka Prefecture in the Kansai region of Honshu in Japan — Osaka admitted that she isn’t too concerned about the lack of training options currently available to her.
“Part of me is a bit concerned, but I also know that other players are in the same position as me. I just think that, it’s not like I’ll forget how to play tennis. I also don’t want to train five hours a day right now because I think that’s how you get burnt out and you never know when tournaments will start again,” she added.
With her diverse background and status as a Grand Slam singles champion, she is one of the most marketable women athletes in the world, ranking second in endorsement income in 2019 behind only Serena Williams. On the court, Osaka has an aggressive playing style with a powerful serve that can reach 200kph.
Osaka’s second Grand Slam title came at the season-opening Australian Open in 2019. Entering the tournament as the fourth seed and also as one of eleven players in contention for the world No. 1 ranking, the shy Japanese got the better of Petra Kvitova in three sets to become the first woman to win consecutive Grand Slam singles titles since Serena Williams in 2015. Osaka also became the first Asian player to be ranked No. 1 in the world in singles.