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Osaka to take it match by match at Cincinnati

Cincinnati: Playing in her first hardcourt event in the United States after a difficult summer when she withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental issues, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka said she will be taking it one match at a time in Cincinnati Masters.

“I would say when I came back from Tokyo, I took three days off, and then I immediately started practicing again. For me, I felt like I played well in Tokyo, but there were still some decisions that I didn’t make that well, so I just wanted to get that feeling back because I honestly haven’t played many matches this year.

“So I would say I’m trying to take it one match at a time, and I don’t even know who my opponent is going to be, so just trying to train really hard each day and see where that takes me,” Osaka said at a media interaction ahead of the tournament.

Naomi has highlighted the mental issues that professional athletes face when dealing with fans and the media. Questions related to her mental health and her relations with the media resurfaced during the interaction on Monday as the Japanese tennis star became emotional and left the room in tears, only to return a few minutes later after composing herself.

Naomi left the room when a journalist asked her about using social media for promoting her ideas but trying to avoid interacting with the conventional media. She came back a few minutes later, asked the journalist to explain his question, and proceeded to answer.

“Ever since I was young, I have had a lot of media interest on me, and I think it’s because of my background as well as how I play. I’m a tennis player. That’s why a lot of people are interested in me,” she said.

“I would say in that regard I’m quite different to a lot of people, and I can’t really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that, and I know it’s because I have won a couple of Grand Slams and I have done a lot of press conferences that these things happen.

“But I would also say, I’m not really sure how to balance the two. I’m figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say.”

The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner is participating in her first tournament on the US hardcourt circuit as she gets ready to defend her US Open title. She will be participating in the Cincinnati Masters where she will donate her prize money to earthquake relief work in Haiti.

Asked whether she is proud of herself after her decision to bring awareness to mental health issues, Naomi said, “I would say for me, in that moment I wasn’t really proud. I felt like it was something I needed to do for myself. More than anything, I felt like I holed up in my house for a couple of weeks, and I was a little bit embarrassed to go out because I didn’t know if people were looking at me in a different way than they usually did before.

“I think the biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say that they were really glad that I did what I did. So after all that, yeah, I’m proud of what I did, and I think it was something that needed to be done,” Osaka was quoted as saying by the WTA Tour.

The Japanese tennis star also spoke about her experience at the Tokyo Olympics where she became the first female tennis player to light the Olympics flame. Osaka, who was expected to win gold’for Japan in women’s singles, lost in the third round in the Olympics.

“I feel like definitely [lighting the torch is] a moment that I’ll be the proudest of myself. I think my ojiisan was probably yelling at his TV when it happened. It was surreal. I had to do a rehearsal the night before, but it felt very top secret. I didn’t know I was the first tennis player to carry the torch, but definitely, that’s something that I’ll remember in my heart.”

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