Naomi Osaka ‘felt ungrateful’ for not appreciating tennis success

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 (Getty Images)
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Naomi Osaka has admitted she felt “ungrateful” at times over the past 12 months for not appreciating her life as one of the planet’s leading sports stars.

The World No2, who beat America’s Coco Gauff at the Cincinnati Masters on Wednesday, also revealed that recent events in Haiti and Afghanistan have helped give her a new perspective.

Osaka is back in action in Cincinnati for the first time since her Olympic Games exit, which came off the back of a self-enforced two-month lay-off after the French Open.

She pulled out of Roland Garros after being punished for refusing to do media conferences, saying her mental health was adversely impacted by certain lines of questioning.

Osaka shed tears and briefly left a press conference in Cincinnati on Monday when asked about her relationship with the media and returned to the theme on Wednesday.

“I was wondering why was I so affected, I guess, like what made me not want to do media,” the 23-year-old told a news conference.

“I’m wondering if I was scared, because sometimes I would see headlines of like players losing and then the headline the next day would be like a collapse or they’re not that great anymore.

“So then I was thinking me waking up every day, for me, I should feel like I’m winning. Like, the choice to go out there and play, to go see fans that people come out and watch me play, that itself is an accomplishment.

“I’m not sure when along the way I started desensitising that. Like it started not being like an accomplishment for me. So I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact.”

The four-times Grand Slam champion said the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic had made things “really stressful” her but recent events in Haiti and Afghanistan led to a change in her outlook.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,000 people in Haiti - the country where her father was born - while Afghanistan has been in turmoil.

“Seeing the state of the world, like how everything is in Haiti, Afghanistan right now, is definitely really crazy,” she said.

“And for me to just be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play ... I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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