US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka’s US Open title defence ended in tears and tatters as she suffered a shock defeat at the hands of an 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez on Saturday. Osaka was serving for the match in the second set, but couldn’t pull through as Fernandez pushed her to the brink before dominating the third set to seal progression to round 4 at Osaka’s expense. During the loss, the 23-year-old uncharacteristically showed signs of frustration and expressed her doubts following her US Open exit.
Speaking after her round three loss to Leylah Fernandez, Naomi Osaka sadi that she might not play again for a while hinting at another break from tennis, having opted out of the French Open and the Wimbledon citing mental health issues. Osaka struggled to hold back her tears and said, “This is very hard to articulate. Basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.”
US Open 2021: Naomi Osaka plans “indefinite break” from tennis after shock exit
Osaka added, “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win, I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”
The four-time Grand Slam champions apologised for her animated reactions on the court and expressed regret over the same. She added, “Yeah, I’m really sorry about that. I’m not really sure why. Like, I felt like I was pretty — I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.”
Retired athletes voiced their support for four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka on Saturday after she said she would take a break from tennis having lost her enthusiasm for competition.
The world number three suffered a stunning defeat in the third round of the US Open on Friday before tearfully telling reporters she planned to take an indefinite break from the sport.
“I feel like for me recently, like, when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief,” said Osaka, months after publicly disclosing that she had suffered from depression.
Retired American tennis pro-James Blake applauded her decision.
“Please do what is best for you @naomiosaka,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday. “We want to see your extraordinary tennis again, but more importantly, we want to see you happy.”
Please do what is best for you @naomiosaka We want to see your extraordinary tennis again, but more importantly, we want to see you happy.
Six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker responded to Blake in a quote retweet: “That’s right.”
The 23-year-old has ushered in a new conversation around mental health in professional sport after she dropped out of the French Open amid a public row over mandatory press conferences at the Grand Slam, saying they took too great a toll on her mental wellbeing.
Osaka’s influence extends far beyond the court, as she brought the Black Lives Matter protest to tennis’ international platform a year ago, becoming a leading figure for athlete advocacy in the process.
“Good decision. Young, trying to figure out life, how to win consistently, and as a huge celebrity athlete is hard! Trying to also be a change-maker too. Exponentially harder!” four-time Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Michael Johnson wrote on Twitter.
“If there was ever a need for an athlete to step away, this is it.”