Naomi Osaka announced she’s taking a break from playing tennis, and it’s for a while.
On Friday (September 3), the 23-year-old Japanese tennis star ended her run at the 2021 U.S. Open with a loss against 18-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez, according to USA Today. During an interview after the match, Osaka apologized for slamming her racquet.
“I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point,” she told reporters, according to PEOPLE. “Normally, I like challenges. But recently, I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way.”
Then, Osaka became visibly emotional while discussing her Tennis future.
“I guess we’re all dealing with some stuff, but I know that I’m dealing with some stuff,” she said. “I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
Naomi Osaka’s been through a lot professionally this year. In late August, she took to Instagram to reflect on her journey in the sport. “Recently I’ve been asking myself why do I feel the way I do and I realized one of the reasons is because internally I think I’m never good enough,” she wrote. “I’ve never told myself that I’ve done a good job, but I do know I constantly tell myself that I suck or I could do better.”
Osaka added that she wanted to work on celebrating her accomplishments more: “Your life is your own and you shouldn’t value yourself on other people’s standards,” she wrote. “I know I give my heart to everything I can and if that’s not good enough for some then my apologies but I can’t burden myself with those expectations anymore. Seeing everything that’s going on in the world I feel like if I wake up in the morning that’s a win. That’s how I’m coming.”
It isn’t immediately clear how long Osaka will be absent from playing professional tennis. Previously she withdrew from both the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental health issues.
Supporters, including Sherrilyn Ifill, president & director-counsel of LDF (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund), rushed to her defense after critics took aim at her decision.
We’ll be here when and if @naomiosaka decides to return to playing. She is a very young woman – talented, courageous, sensitive and strong – and on her journey. Tennis is what she does, not who she is. She’ll find her way with time. https://t.co/JwCuTuCNmu
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) September 4, 2021
Additionally, fellow tennis star Sloane Stephens says she’s received over 2,000 abusive messages on Instagram after she lost her U.S. Open match Friday (Sept. 3) to Angelique Kerber, Yahoo! News reports.
“It’s so hard to read messages like these, but I’ll post a few so you guys can see what it’s like after a loss,” she wrote on her Instagram Story. “This type of hate is so exhausting and never-ending. This isn’t talked about enough, but it really freaking sucks.”