Tennis phenom Naomi Osaka is back on the court and she’s still claiming victories.
On Sunday, Osaka won her first match against China’s Saisai Zheng at the Tokyo Olympics. Saisai ranks 52nd in the world in women’s tennis, ESPN reports. Osaka defeated Saisai in straight sets — 6-1, 6-4 — in less than 1 hour and 30 minutes.
“The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” Osaka told reporters. “So I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed, and I’m happy again.”
This is Osaka’s first time on the court since she withdrew from the French Open in May. After facing criticism from some sports enthusiasts, Naomi went to social media to explain her decision.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018,” Osaka shared. “I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted. Anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me, I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”
Osaka also shared that she would not be participating in interviews at the French Open because “people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”
Osaka Talks to Reporters After Victory Tennis Match
This weekend, Naomi decided to break her silence. After a two month mental health hiatus, Osaka stopped to talked to reporters following her victory.
“More than anything else, I’m just focused on playing tennis,” Osaka said.
According to ESPN, the tennis superstar noted that she was “happy” to receive questions from reporters.
“I feel a little bit out of my body right now,” Osaka said. “There’s nothing wrong with my body; I just felt really nervous. I haven’t played since France, so there were definitely some things that I did a bit wrong, but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”
This weekend was a momentous occasion for the 23-year-old athlete. Osaka was asked to light the iconic Olympic cauldron at Friday’s Opening Ceremony. The four-time Grand slam winner became the first tennis player to hold the Olympic torch towards the cauldron.
“When I lit the flame, I was super honored,” she stated. “I think that’s a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it. So, for me, when they asked me if I wanted to, I was very surprised but very honored. And I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo.”
Osaka was born in Japan in October 1997. Her mother is Japanese and her father is Haitian. She moved to New York with her family at the age of 3. Now, she’s representing Japan at the Olympics.
“Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life,” Osaka shared on Instagram. “I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now, but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness.”