Next year, she’ll miss the French Open, but next year Naomi Osaka says she’ll still play there — but will be ready for 2018. Her withdrawal at Roland Garros this spring was heavily criticized, but now the 18-year-old Japan native, who became the first Japanese player to win a WTA title on Monday in Stanford, says she should have put a little more time into that tournament. She says there were things she did wrong, and now she’s ready to correct those wrongs.
Talking with ESPN’s Kiki Vandeweghe this week, Osaka was asked about her withdrawal at Roland Garros in May.
“I should’ve played,” she said. “I shouldn’t have stopped playing. It’s just something I’ve never done before, so I don’t know exactly what happened in the tennis world. It was like: I’ve never stopped, so that must mean I can’t play. The tennis world wasn’t like me or that kind of person. No one had that attitude before. But it’s kind of like I missed the most important event of the year. I didn’t understand. So I want to get over it.”
I just wrapped up an interview with Naomi Osaka. She confirms Roland Garros withdrawal: https://t.co/H2VUzE9RVC via @espn — Kiki Vandeweghe (@kandavidvd) August 2, 2017
Osaka was rattled by the criticism, and by the “cut-up little YouTube videos of myself,” in which her mistake was explained away by saying, “This is the way you play tennis. This is your first Grand Slam tournament.” And she was chagrined that the criticism from contemporaries like Caroline Wozniacki — who said she should have tried harder to earn her second tour-level title in Stockholm — carried over to the rest of the tennis world, especially when she’d had such success prior to her early exit.
“This is weird,” she said. “It’s like ‘Cut-up little YouTube videos of myself.’ No, that’s not how tennis is. Tennis is such a sport. You have to be so serious in order to play and it’s almost like you shouldn’t even play tennis because of how hard it is. I think tennis has always been a sport where — and I don’t even know why it has — but there has been like a big switch like it’s not a sport anymore. Everyone just changed something on the tennis court, whether it’s the heart that you put into it or your attitudes or whatever. That’s crazy to me.
“I just think it’s like some people just have this attitude that you can’t be good and then everyone else is OK and they go like, ‘She’s good.’ Like someone just needs to put something in their bucket and go like, ‘We’re all just gonna — we’re all gonna win here together,’” she said. “But everybody’s different. Everybody needs to take a little bit of something different to go into tennis. I think — I don’t know why. Some people like these YouTube videos, other people don’t, for whatever reason. That’s fine. But you can’t live your life like that in tennis.”
Osaka eventually put her first-round exit at Roland Garros behind her, and beat Sweden’s Sisamu Niito, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. The win gave her a record 27th career singles win, but none of her titles. For this season, Osaka has won 17 times.