Tearful Osaka Isn't Sure When She'll Play Tennis Again

Saying she's dealing with issues, star plans a break after US Open upset
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2021 5:30 PM CDT
Osaka: 'I Don't Know When I'm Going to Play My Next Match'
Naomi Osaka leaves the court after losing to 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez on Friday in New York.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Tennis star Naomi Osaka isn't sure what to do. "When I win, I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad," she said after losing at the US Open on Friday night. "I don't think that's normal." The moderator tried to end the news conference, but Osaka, wiping away tears, wanted to go on, NPR reports. "I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match," she said after being upset in the third round by Leylah Fernandez, who was ranked 73rd. "I think I'm gonna take a break from playing for a while."

Osaka has taken time off already this summer, dropping out of the French Open over the mandate to appear at press conferences after matches, then deciding not to play Wimbledon. She was eliminated from the Tokyo Olympics in the third round after carrying the torch in the Opening Ceremony. Her announcement that she needed a break to tend to her mental health started international discussions about the pressure put on athletes, including that by the tennis establishment and journalists. "I guess we're all dealing with some stuff," Osaka said Friday night, "but I know that I'm dealing with some stuff."

Analysis of Osaka's announcement included:

  • ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg wondering, during the press conference, whether he was witnessing a retirement. He watched her closely at the Open, he said, adding, "What I saw, I now realize, was someone in pain."
  • Jerry Bembry, on the Undefeated, writing that the message Osaka should take away from the Open and its crowds is, "Take all the time you need as you step away and reflect."
  • Christopher Clarey, in the New York Times, writing that just before the Open, Osaka "spoke of trying to find a new approach to life and tennis that centered on not beating herself up when things did not go perfectly and on celebrating small victories, even just getting out of bed in the morning." It's clear now, Clarey says, "that those efforts remain a work in progress."
  • Howard Fendrich, writing for the AP that, at this point, she needs to only answer to herself. "Naomi Osaka does not owe it to anyone to play tennis for the rest of this season," he writes. "Or, really, ever again."
  • Dan Wolken, in USA Today, agreeing with Osaka that she has to make a decision. "If tennis is the cause of her problems, she should walk away and do whatever she wants to do," he writes. "But if tennis is part of the solution, then she needs to be a full-time player. Trying to walk a line between the two seems to only cause her pain."
(More Naomi Osaka stories.)

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