BEIJING, China - US Open champion Naomi Osaka is doing everything she can to move on from her New York triumph. But it hasn't been easy.
The 20-year-old tallied her first ever win at the China Open on Monday, defeating Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the second round. The win comes a week after Osaka backed up her US Open fortnight with a strong run to the Tokyo final.
"I was lucky that Tokyo was so close because I could immediately focus on the next tournament," Osaka said. "I didn't think too much about what was going on, like the press or whatever. So maybe if I did have that time, I would be overwhelmed.
"For me, I'm really focused on playing the Asian swing. Yeah, for me the biggest goal right now is trying to get into Singapore."
For now, Osaka is focused on making one final push over the final weeks of the season to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global for the first time, three years after winning the WTA Rising Stars Invitational in Singapore as an 18-year-old. She currently sits at No.3 on the Porsche Race to Singapore Leaderboard.
After making the Tokyo final, where she lost to Karolina Pliskova, Osaka withdrew from last week's Wuhan Open due to viral illness. Asked whether the time off allowed her to recharge her batteries, Osaka gave a long pause before smiling.
"I have so much tea right now, but I'm not going to spill it," Osaka said with a laugh.
"There's a lot of stuff I want to say about how I felt and whatever. But for me, I don't know, I don't know.
"The memory of the US Open is a little bit bittersweet. Like right after, the day after, I really didn't want to think about it because it wasn't necessarily the happiest memory for me. I don't know. I just sort of wanted to move on at that point."
Asked whether the joy of winning her maiden major outweighed the bittersweet feeling left by the memories of the controversial final, Osaka compared her feelings to eating green tea ice cream. "When you bite into it, it's sweet but also very strong," Osaka said. "That's how that memory feels to me.
"I mean, of course I'm happy that I won a Grand Slam. I don't think there's anything that can take away from that. But I don't know.
"I feel like not that when I look back on it that it's a bad memory, but I feel like it was so strange, I just didn't want to think about it. I wanted to just push it to the side. Then I played Tokyo. For me, Tokyo was a way to take my mind off of it. I think that's why I did well.
"I'm still trying to take my mind off of it a little bit. I guess hopefully I can do well here, too."
It's been a heady few years for Generation '97, which made its mark first when Belinda Bencic made her Top 10 debut at 18-years-old in 2016, followed by Jelena Ostapenko winning the 2017 French Open. This year saw Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina face off for the Indian Wells title, which Osaka won before following in Ostapenko's footsteps to become the second major champion aged 21 or younger. Combined with the soaring success of Aryna Sabalenka over the last three months, which she capped off with her biggest title last week in Wuhan, and there's no time for complacency for Osaka.
"For me personally, I think everyone is super great around my age. I remember when Ostapenko won the French Open, I thought it was super amazing. I couldn't comprehend how she did it. I thought the mental strength that you have to have to do that is amazing.
"And, yeah, I am, Kasatkina, Belinda, Sabalenka and everybody, they are all really great. I think when I see them doing well and winning matches, I want to do well, too."