Naomi Osaka says she’s having fun playing tennis again for the first time in a while.
Osaka made headlines last year at Roland-Garros when she refused to partake in media duties –– stressing that reporters had no regard for athletes’ mental health.
The four-time major winner has admitted to suffering from mental health problems and took an extended break from the game last year to focus on herself.
Osaka’s absence saw her drop down the rankings and outside of the world’s top 50, but it appears the Japanese star is on the rise again.
Osaka enjoying tennis again
Since returning to the sport, Osaka has yet to win a title but did make the final of the Miami Open in April.
And though her game may not be in the same place it was two years ago, the former world number one has stressed she is enjoying herself again now.
Speaking to Self, the 24-year-old said: “I really had a blast on court for the first time in a while. I have a new perspective and I’m so appreciative that I have this career and platform. I’m also really energised and motivated.”
Osaka also revealed she received an outpouring of support after opening up about her mental health problems, including from gymnast Simone Biles, who faced similar problems at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
“After I opened up about [my] struggles… I spoke to a lot of athletes that told me they too had quietly been suffering.
“I didn’t expect any of it, and to be honest it was a bit strange … It was a strange feeling and I was shocked that people cared that much.
“I guess I am glad it gave others the opportunity to also speak up even if that wasn’t my intention or what I expected. It started a conversation that I think we all needed to start having.”
While Osaka is enjoying her tennis again, she has been forced to pull out of the Italian Open because of an achilles injury.
The 24-year-old was scheduled to face Sara Sorribes Tormo –– the same player who knocked her out of the Madrid Open last week.
“Unfortunately I’m going to have to withdraw from Rome as the injury which I picked up last week in Madrid hasn’t healed yet,” Osaka said.
“It’s an Achilles injury so I need to be careful especially in advance of Roland Garros.
“I love this city and always enjoy playing in front of the Italian fans so I will be sorry to miss them — but look forward to coming back next year.”