Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has pledged to never cry in the pressroom again after she enjoyed a triumphant return to court.
Osaka has been on a break from tennis since crashing out of the US Open in the third round in September.
She made her return at the Melbourne Summer Set yesterday, overcoming Alizé Cornet of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
The four-time Grand Slam champion discussed her return with reporters after the match, setting out her goals for 2022.
“I only really have one major goal this year, and it’s completely unrelated to results and stuff like that,” she said.
“For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun. I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could.
“Also, I have a goal in the pressroom, that I’m never going to cry again, so hopefully that works out in my favour.
“I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that and I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again.
“Because that’s the reason why I was playing in the first place.”
Osaka skipped both the French Open and Wimbledon last year, having caused a commotion by refusing to partake in media duties during Roland Garros.
The 24-year-old then returned for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but lost in the third round. After exiting the US Open at the same stage, Osaka revealed winning no longer left her feeling happy, and losing left her feeling “very sad”.
As a result, Osaka put her mental health first, and stepped away from tennis. She slipped in the standings from world number two to 13 during her absence.
“I actually really thought I wasn’t going to play for most of this year,” Osaka told reporters at the Melbourne Summer Set.
“I’m really happy with myself that I love the sport that much because I literally said that I was unsure when I was going to play after the US Open and I’m here right now.
“In the break I was feeling like I didn’t know what my future was going to be. I’m pretty sure a lot of people can relate to that. Of course you never know what the future holds, but it was definitely an indecisive time.
“But I’m really happy to be sitting here right now.”
Osaka is now preparing to defend her title at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of 2022.
The tennis star told reporters why she decided to return in time for the prestigious tournament.
“What probably got me ready again was just talking to people,” she said. “I tend to internalise everything, and I think that might be just based on how I grew up.
“I didn’t really have that many friends, so I didn’t really talk to anyone in the first place.
“Then during the off-season I just hung out with my friends and talked to my family a lot. I felt like that was a way of decompressing the pressure I had on myself.
“Then I just slowly started to regain the feeling of love that I had towards the game.
“It’s not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year.
“I started tennis when I was three years old, and I never really took a break. Sometimes it’s just good to remember why you’re playing and stuff.”
Osaka will be back in action at the Melbourne Summer Set tomorrow, against Maryna Zanevska of Belgium.