Naomi Osaka trying to 'relearn' fun feeling of playing tennis before US Open

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 1, 2019 Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva REUTERS/Tony O'Brien
Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 1, 2019 Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva REUTERS/Tony O'Brien

Just six months ago, the world was Naomi Osaka’s oyster. A back-to-back Grand Slam winner after victories in New York and Melbourne, the Japanese star rose to the top of the WTA rankings as the new face of women’s tennis.

But things haven’t been quite so smooth since. The 21-year-old has admitted to struggling to cope with her new found fame, hasn’t won a tournament since and was knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon in early July.

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She took to Instagram late Wednesday night to express where she’s at and why she’s experienced a downturn.

“The last few months for me have been really tough, tennis wise, but thankfully I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me back (hopefully hahaha) ... 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.”

Known for her genuineness, Osaka’s honesty in expressing herself through both her ups and downs is what has endeared herself to the tennis world. Despite only dropping to No. 2 in the world rankings, she will be eagerly followed to find out if she can rise back to the top over the course of final third of the season.

Her controversial win over Serena Williams in the final of the U.S. Open last year is what first moved her into the spotlight, especially her tearful reaction to the crowd booing as she was about to receive her first Grand Slam trophy. Those in attendance were in fact reacting to the performance of the chair umpire and some decisions that didn’t go Williams’ way, but it still served to completely ruin the experience for Osaka.

After winning the Australia Open to begin 2019 despite growing animosity between her and her coach, Osaka parted ways with coach Sascha Bajin citing overall unhappiness.

“If I’m not waking up every day happy to practice and happy to be around the people I’m around, this is my life,” Osaka told WTA Insider. “I’m not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around. I have to be happy with where I am at my life. I feel like I worked really hard – maybe not for 21 years, but for 17 years – to be No. 1 and to win grand slams.”

The struggle to find that happiness has been real since, and as she mentions in her post, she hopes to regain that joy for the sport beginning in Toronto for the Rogers Cup, where she is seeded second behind World No. 1 and reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty.

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