The famous Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka performs at the Olympic tournament in Tokyo. – Tokyo, Japan – August 3, 2021 (Shutterstock)
Tennis star Naomi Osaka announced she’ll likely step away from the sport for a bit following Friday’s third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.
“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” Osaka told reporters. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
The match was uncharacteristic of Osaka in a number of ways. Usually more reserved on the court, Osaka said her temper boiled over Friday. It was noticeable as the 23-year-old star couldn’t hide her frustration, throwing her racket on multiple occasions and struggling to regain her composure.
The defending U.S. Open champion was expected to make another deep run at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Instead she not only leaves the tournament early, but uncertain when she’ll play again.
Before leaving the podium Friday, Osaka explained that she reached her “boiling point” and apologized for her outburst on the court.
“I was telling myself to be calm but there was a boiling point,” Osaka said. “Recently, I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way. I was kind of like a little kid.”
It’s been a trying year for the Japanese star.
Ahead of the French Open, Osaka released a statement acknowledging she didn’t want to do any press conferences because they had been impacting her mental health. Officials at the tournament wouldn’t let her do so without penalty and eventually Osaka withdrew from the tournament.
As she announced her intent to take a break Friday, Osaka began tearing up. Moderators moved to end the press conference, but Osaka said she would remain to finish her thoughts.
In a social media post shortly before the U.S. Open, Osaka explained that her anxiety leads her to believe she’s not “good enough” and struggles with negative thoughts. She’s working on changing those attitudes about herself.
In the meantime, one of the sport’s biggest stars is stepping away now.