French Open 2022: Naomi Osaka returns to Roland Garros still a bit concerned but ready to deal with the atmosphere

A year after retiring from the French Open to take care of her mental health, Naomi Osaka is back in Paris and ready to face the challenges ahead. Osaka took a big step forward on Friday when she attended a press conference ahead of this weekend’s competition.

“For the most part, I think I’m okay,” she said.

Last year, the former world No. 1 said she experienced “huge waves of fear” while speaking to the media. After winning the first round, she stopped performing her media duties and was fined $15,000. She then withdrew from the tournament. The psychological problems did not only appear in 2021. Osaka shared on Instagram that she had long suffered from depression since winning the US Open in 2018. She also explained that she suffers from social anxiety, which is why she often wears headphones during tournaments.

During Friday’s press conference, Osaka admitted there are a few things that are a bit worrying about her return but that she hopes to work through. One of those concerns is unfriendly fans. Earlier this year, Osaka was brought to tears after heckling in Indiana Wells. This incident is still fresh in her memory.

“Obviously I’m still thinking about it and I’m kind of preparing myself in case I go out on the pitch and a fan says something like Indian Wells,” she said.

Osaka also admitted she felt different now speaking to the media, feeling “funnier” and more easygoing than she did last year.

“I feel like the thing that’s changed, I’m trying to figure out the crowd,” she said. “I feel like a stand-up comedian, and I’m trying to figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay.”

While there are obstacles not directly related to the game, she also has to face tough challenges on the court. The Japanese star will take on number 27 Amanda Anisimova, who she defeated at the Australian Open in Melbourne, in their first round match. Osaka said she was a little shocked when her coach Wim Fissette told her who her opponent will be. However, she is also willing to embrace the rematch and use it as motivation.

“I wouldn’t say I don’t want to play her because I feel like for me I’m the kind of person that motivates me to win more if you beat me and I learned a lot from her as well game,” Osaka said.

She also admitted that she was a bit relieved because a first-round match against Anisimova wasn’t her worst-case scenario.

“I had a dream a few days ago that the draw came out and I had to play against Iga (Swiatek),” Osaka said. “I was scared because I was thinking what is the worst player I can play if I’m not seeded. She came to mind, so thank god that didn’t happen.”

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, currently sits 38th in the WTA rankings due to a lack of time on her mental health and an Achilles tendon injury. French Open 2022: Naomi Osaka returns to Roland Garros still a bit concerned but ready to deal with the atmosphere

Justin Scacco

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