Naomi Osaka at French Open news conference: ‘I think I’m OK’

May 19, 2022, 7:35 PM | Updated: May 20, 2022, 7:37 am
FILE - Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a forehand during their singles match against Andrea Petkovic of ...

FILE - Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a forehand during their singles match against Andrea Petkovic of Germany at the Summer Set tennis tournament ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion who helped spark a conversation about athletes’ mental health when she pulled out of last year’s French Open before her second-round match and revealed that she has dealt with anxiety and depression. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair, File)

(AP Photo/Hamish Blair, File)

PARIS (AP) — Naomi Osaka cracked jokes at Roland Garros on Friday — and, yes, laughed at those jokes. She smiled after some reporters’ questions. She paused to contemplate, as is her wont, before offering answers.

All of which seemed to confirm this assessment that she offered during an 18-minute pre-tournament French Open news conference, one year after she declared she would avoid talking to the press and then withdrew before the second round: “For the most part, I think I’m OK.”

Osaka used those words at the conclusion of a lengthy and thoughtful reply about what it was like to come back to a place where her last trip was so much more about her well-being and off-court mindset than her tennis. Which is saying something when the subject is a player who already owns four Grand Slam titles and has been ranked No. 1.

“I’m not going to lie. When I first came here, I was very worried. I was just kind of worried if there would be people that — of course, I also didn’t like how I handled the situation — but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way, and I would just kind of bump into them,” Osaka said Friday, her eyes darting around the room, her words separated by the occasional pause. “But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I’m not really so sure. I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I’d get a lot of questions about this.”

Continuing, Osaka said: “For me, where I am right now, I wouldn’t want to say — it hasn’t left my mind. Of course, I’m still thinking about it.”

Before the 2021 French Open, Osaka vowed to not “do any press during Roland Garros,” framing the matter as a mental health issue, saying it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss. She stuck to that stance, skipping the tournament’s media day — which is what Friday’s setting was — and her mandatory news conference after winning in the first round, which drew a $15,000 fine. Osaka also was threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments of possible additional punishment, including disqualification or suspension.

She responded by pulling out of Roland Garros, explaining that she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression,” helping make such comments more common among athletes, not to mention society at large.

Osaka also sat out Wimbledon and, later in the season, took another mental health break after losing at the U.S. Open.

She returned to the Grand Slam stage in January at the Australian Open, where was the reigning champion.

Osaka lost in the third round there to Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who just so happens to be Osaka’s first opponent in Paris.

Her ranking has fallen to No. 38, mostly because of a lack of action, and her preparation for the French Open was hardly ideal: Osaka withdrew from the clay-court tournament in Rome this month because of a lingering injury to her left Achilles heel.

“For me, there is no way I’m not going to play this tournament, so of course, you kind of have to manage things. But at the same time, I’m going to pop a few painkillers. … I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something,” she said. “So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don’t have anything to lose.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Parker, Sky beat Sun 94-91, set franchise’s win record

CHICAGO (AP) — Candace Parker scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and tipped a pass to Emma Meesseman for a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to help the Chicago Sky beat the Connecticut Sun 94-91 Sunday to set the franchise record for wins in a season. Courtney Vandersloot had 20 points, five assists and four […]
13 hours ago
Cleveland Guardians' Luke Maile watches his solo home run off Houston Astros starting pitcher Crist...
Associated Press

McKenzie’s 8 Ks, Maile’s HR puts Guardians over Astros 1-0

CLEVELAND (AP) — Triston McKenzie held Houston to two hits and struck out eight in eight innings, Luke Maile homered for the first time in three years and the Cleveland Guardians defeated the Houston Astros 1-0 on Sunday. McKenzie (8-8) retired 15 straight hitters before pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker walked with one out in the eighth. […]
2 days ago
Manchester City's Erling Haaland, 2nd left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his sides first...
Associated Press

Haaland shines for Man City, United loses under Ten Hag

LONDON (AP) — Erik ten Hag pleaded for time after starting his Manchester United reign with a disappointing loss. Erling Haaland didn’t need much time at all to show what kind of impact he will have at Manchester City. The two biggest offseason arrivals in Manchester had starkly different starts to the Premier League season […]
2 days ago
Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson throw to first to complete the double play after forcing T...
Associated Press

White Sox shortstop Anderson starts reduced 2-day suspension

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had his suspension for making contact with an umpire late last month cut from three to two games. Anderson sat out the afternoon game at the Texas Rangers to begin the suspension, which will end with the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City […]
2 days ago
Former Philadelphia Phillies player Pete Rose tips his hat to fans during an alumni day event befor...
Associated Press

Rose dismisses sexual misconduct questions at Phillies fete

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pete Rose dismissed questions Sunday about his first appearance on the field in Philadelphia since the franchise scrapped 2017 plans to honor him because of a woman’s claim she had a sexual relationship with baseball’s hit king when she was a minor. “It was 55 years ago, babe,” Rose told a female […]
2 days ago
First time skiers take a lesson at the Afriski ski resort near Butha-Buthe, Lesotho, Saturday July ...
Associated Press

Tiny African kingdom has skiing as Europe sweats summer heat

BUTHA-BUTHE, Lesotho (AP) — While millions across Europe sweat through a summer of record-breaking heat, they’re skiing in Africa. Don’t worry. This isn’t another sign of climate change but rather the fascinating anomaly of Lesotho, a tiny mountain kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho has an obscure geographical claim to fame: It’s the only […]
2 days ago
Naomi Osaka at French Open news conference: ‘I think I’m OK’