"I was like, Yo, I'm going to do this again? For real?" Naomi Osaka reveals the major match that came to mind in the final stages her win over Victoria Azarenka in the second round of Roland Garros.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen
May 30, 2019

PARIS, France - Naomi Osaka knew what everyone was thinking. Serving at 5-1 up in the third set after mounting a steady comeback from a set and a break down against former World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, Osaka suddenly found her mind racing, her pulse quickening, and her lead slipping from her hands. 

As It Happened: How Naomi Osaka reeled in Victoria Azarenka in early blockbuster

Was the World No.1, who had just engineered yet another resilient three-set comeback, about to choke it all away? 

"I was up [5-1] 30-Love," Osaka told reporters after her second round win. "I kind of felt like she was kind of over it after 30-Love. I felt like her atmosphere around her changed. She seemed more accepting of the fact that I might hit aces or whatever. 

"So then I saw that, and then I started overthinking. I thought, Oh, we're gonna hit some aces, get off this court real quick. 

"I sprayed one ball out, and then the next ball she hit a dropshot, and I kind of didn't place it so well. And then it was 30-all. 

"You know what I started thinking about? I was thinking about the US Open against Keys, the tragic match. I was thinking about that."

"I started panicking, because she kind of was, like, Oh, this girl is choking, I'm about to come back in this match. Then I lost that game. 

"And then, you know what I started thinking about? I was thinking about the US Open against Keys, the tragic match. I was thinking about that.

(At the 2016 US Open, Osaka let a 5-1 lead in the third slip against Madison Keys in the third round and lost in a tiebreak.)

"I was like, Yo, I'm going to do this again? For real? 

"I was trying really hard to win her service game and then I lost it. Then I was, like, Eww. Then she had a break point. My serve came back to me. So I'm thankful for that. And I managed to win."

Osaka's win over Azarenka - she was five points from the loss in the second set - comes after her opening round comeback against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. There, Osaka overcame her nerves to break Schmiedlova twice when she served for the match and seal a 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 win. The No.1's level was far better against Azarenka, though she was forced to overcome another error-strewn start, falling behind 1-5 in the first set. 

"The first set, I got rolled," Osaka said. "I made a little bit of a comeback in the end of the first set, but technically, she kind of killed me in the first set, and I just kept trying to find a way to stay positive and jump around.

"I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire, if I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that."

"After a certain point, I don't even look at the score. I just try to take it point by point.

"I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire, if I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that."

Osaka gave full credit to Azarenka's level throughout the match, which saw the two combine for 87 winners. All she could do was focus and wait for her opportunities, which she took at 3-4 down in the second set.

"I feel like there is a time for everything, and for me, whenever I play a match, even if I'm playing bad or good, I always recognize that there is a chance," Osaka said. "And I can always tell when the chances are.

"It would be kind of, like, I don't want to say rude, but kind of arrogant to just think everything is on my racquet. I know that there are some matches that it is like that, but, I mean, I'm playing against the best players in the world."

"Today I kind of felt like a challenger. I know she went to the semis here before, so obviously she has a lot more experience here. She won Grand Slams and she was No.1 way before I was. 

I'm still kind of new at this," Osaka said, with a laugh. 

"I have always wanted to play her while she was at her best. "I know the last time I played her in Rome, it definitely wasn't close, so I kind of woke up excited today, and then I got really nervous. And then it got better."

"I wasn't nervous going into this match, [just] the usual right-before-you-go-on-the-court-type nerves. Nothing like how I experienced the first round. 

"But I think also I felt that way because I didn't think I could afford to be nervous. You know how I play better against the high-level people? She's been playing great the entire season, so I was just, like, I can't make any mistakes, I can't be nervous because she's gonna kind of steamroll me, and she did in the first set. 

"But today was fun."

"If I had to look at it as an effort level, I think today was the best clay court match I have played this year, because I didn't stop trying at all. Every point was kind of, like, pedal to the metal."

"It would be kind of arrogant to just think everything is on my racquet."

Osaka said she felt like she had something to prove after her first round match. Asked to revisit that question, Osaka said it wasn't about outside pressure anymore. 

"It's more like I feel like I have to win," Osaka said. "I acknowledge that's kind of a toxic trait, but it's gotten me this far,

"I don't really notice the number next to my name anymore. I don't think about it too much. I'm just thinking about trying to win this tournament."