World No.2 Naomi Osaka sat down Monday for her first press conference since the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, fielding questions from reporters on Media Day at the Western & Southern Open. The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion is set to play her first tournament of the North American summer hardcourt season this week in Cincinnati. Last summer, Osaka kicked off her summer campaign by advancing to her first Cincinnati final.
Here are five notable quotes from Osaka's candid press conference, which spanned the topics of her Tokyo 2020 experience, preparation for Cincinnati, and how she is feeling after her decision to withdraw from Roland Garros and Wimbledon due to mental health reasons.
On her preparation for the U.S. hardcourts as she eyes her title defense at the US Open and her expectations in Cincinnati, where she is donating her prize money to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti:
"I would say when I came back from Tokyo, I took three days off, and then I immediately started practicing again. For me, I felt like I played well in Tokyo, but there were still some decisions that I didn't make that well, so I just wanted to get that feeling back because I honestly haven't played many matches this year.
"So I guess I'll see how that takes me and how well I'll do this tournament and sort of lead it on from there into New York."
"Of course I'd really love to win this tournament for the extra motivation I have in giving an organization my prize money for Haiti, of course. But I accidentally saw my draw so I know how hard it's going to be and I know how tough the players are that are here.
"So I would say I'm trying to take it one match at a time, and I don't even know who my opponent is going to be, so just trying to train really hard each day and see where that takes me.
On whether she is proud of herself after her decision to bring awareness to mental health this summer.
"I would say for me, in that moment I wasn't really proud. I felt like it was something I needed to do for myself. More than anything, I felt like I holed up in my house for a couple of weeks, and I was a little bit embarrassed to go out because I didn't know if people were looking at me in a different way than they usually did before.
"I think the biggest eye-opener was going to the Olympics and having other athletes come up to me and say that they were really glad that I did what I did. So after all that, yeah, I'm proud of what I did, and I think it was something that needed to be done."
On her experience at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where she became the first tennis player to light an Olympic torch and advanced to the third round in singles.
"The Tokyo Olympics, I have kind of been waiting for them for eight years almost, because I didn't make it to the Rio one. I felt like everyone kept asking me about the Tokyo Olympics I guess every year from that point.
"So I feel very sad about how I did there, but also a little bit happy I didn't lose in the first round, as well, because I haven't played in a minute. Even the circumstances that it was held in, I was really glad to be able to experience all that. And lighting the torch and stuff like that, it was fun for me. I definitely think it will be like a really big memory for me.
"I feel like definitely [lighting the torch is] a moment that I'll be the proudest of myself. I think my ojiisan was probably yelling at his TV when it happened. It was definitely surreal. I had to do a rehearsal the night before, but it felt very top secret. I didn't know I was the first tennis player to carry the torch, but definitely that's something that I'll remember in my heart."
On whether she has spoken to USA Gymnastics star Simone Biles, who withdrew from a number of events at the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health concerns.
"I sent her a message, but I also want to give her space because I know how overwhelming it can feel."
On what journalists can do to make the press conference experience better for athletes after difficult losses and difficult moments.
"I'm pretty open when it comes to press conferences. I feel like I have been that way my whole life. There are times where I would say there are people that I don't know that well that ask me really, really sensitive questions, and then especially after a loss [it] kind of amplifies a bit. So I would say even repetitive questions, like questions we have been asked before, but maybe you guys weren't there at the previous press conference, just like maybe read transcripts.
"I'm not a professional in press conferences or anything, but, yeah, just to make it a bit more of a friendlier experience, I would say."