Naomi Osaka says she is considering taking a break from tennis ‘for a while’

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, tosses her racket to herself after losing to Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the third round of the US Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

In a candid, emotional post-match interview following her third-round loss at the US Open, Naomi Osaka said she is considering taking a break from playing tennis “for a while.”

“Recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief,” Osaka said. “When I lose I feel very sad and I don’t think that’s normal.”

As Osaka became more visibly upset, the moderator conducting the post-match interview attempted to cut the session short. Osaka, however, said she wanted to continue.

“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,” she said, lowering her visor over her eyes as she offered an apology. “Yeah, I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”

Osaka’s comments came after a hard-fought loss to Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez. At times throughout the match, Osaka appeared frustrated, hitting her racket against the court after being unable to close out the victory during the second set.

In the third set, after Fernandez hit a net-cord winner to establish a 40-15 lead, Osaka took hold of the ball and hit it into the stands. She received a code violation for ball abuse for doing so.

“I’m really sorry about that, I’m not really sure why,” she said after the match. “I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point. Like normally I feel like I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way. And I feel like you can feel that. I’m not really sure why it happens the way it happens.”

Osaka’s loss at the US Open came on the same court where, following her victory over Serena Williams that won her the 2018 tournament, she became a global star. Since then, she has won three more Grand Slam singles titles — including the most recent US Open.

The 23-year-old, who has spent her twenties under the glaring spotlight of being one of sports’ most recognizable athletes, has been candid in recent months about her struggles with mental health.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” Osaka wrote at the end of May, detailing the challenges she’s faced in an Instagram post as she withdrew from the French Open. “Anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.”

After the French Open, Osaka also sat out Wimbledon. An icon around the world and especially in Japan, she participated in the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron as one of the host nation’s most famous athletes.

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