The last time people saw Naomi Osaka at a tennis tournament, she cut off her news conference after a first-round loss at Wimbledon last month, saying, “I feel like I’m about to cry” and leaving the podium.
Before she returns to competition next week in Toronto in the lead-up to her United States Open title defense, she said she “wanted to get some things off my chest.”
Osaka, 21, did it in the ever-modern format of a screenshot of the Notes app posted on her social media channels, acknowledging on Wednesday that these have been the “worst months of my life.”
“The last few months have been really rough for me tennis wise, but thankfully I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me back (hopefully hahaha),” she wrote. “In that regard I’m very thankful for them because whenever things go wrong I blame myself 100%, I have a tendency to shut down because I don’t want to burden anyone with my thoughts or problems but they taught me to trust them and not take everything on by myself.”
Osaka said recent months have also included “some of the best moments” in which she has “been able to do things that I’ve never even considered doing before.”
Those joys, though, have come off the court.
Osaka, 21, appeared to be on the cusp of dominance after winning consecutive Grand Slam singles titles — breaking through with last year’s U.S. Open championship in September and following it with the Australian Open title in January. The pair of major titles helped vault her to the top spot in the WTA rankings.
“I can honestly reflect and say I probably haven’t had fun playing tennis since Australia and I’m finally coming to terms with that while relearning that fun feeling,” Osaka said in her post. “I’ve put so much weight on the results of my matches instead of learning from them which is what I ‘normally’ do.”
After reaching the peak of the sport in Melbourne, Osaka split with her coach, Sascha Bajin. Around the same time, she and her family were sued by her former childhood coach, who is seeking a percentage of her earnings. Her results have plateaued. She has a middling 13-7 record since becoming No. 1 and dropped to No. 2 in late June.
Though her record on clay and grass has never been as strong as it is on hardcourts, she was still deeply disappointed with a third-round exit at the French Open and the early loss at Wimbledon.
Osaka’s social media post on Wednesday was her first significant public statement since Wimbledon.
“Having this time to reflect and think (from losing in the 1st round lololol), I’ve learned a lot about myself and I feel like I grew so much as a person in this past year(s),” she wrote. “So I’m really excited what the future looks like on and off the court.”
Osaka wrote a similar post last year after a loss in Cincinnati. She said at the time, “I haven’t been feeling the ball right and it’s thrown me off a lot to the point where I started getting really frustrated and depressed during my practices.”
She had won the biggest title of her young career on the hardcourts of Indian Wells, Calif., in March 2018, and said she “had a lot of pressure entering the hardcourt swing because I felt a lot of expectation on me from Indian Wells and I didn’t feel like the underdog anymore, (which is a totally new feeling for me).”
She finished last year’s message on an optimistic note, heralding future successes: “I finally felt that fun feeling playing tennis” and signed off, “Update finished, see you in NY.”
There in New York, she was seen winning the U.S. Open.