MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka said Saturday that her approach ahead of the Australian Open is to not worry about winning it all.
In a press conference in which she touched on her maturity and the discomfort she sometimes feels talking with others, the 21-year-old revealed she had blown up in her Brisbane International semifinal by getting too far ahead of herself.
“When I was in Brisbane, I just thought about winning just the tournament, not focusing on every match,” Osaka said.
“I’d never really started a year winning something and I thought that coming off of the offseason, I really wanted to do well in Brisbane. I went to the semis, and I didn’t think about the semis, I just thought about the finals so I think that was not good.”
The world No. 4 said she is now firmly focused on just getting past 86th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland in the opening round at Melbourne Park.
“I have to take it one step at a time, no one wants to lose in the first round of the slam, I think that would be my immediate goal,” Osaka said.
“And then from there I’ve been in the third round one hundred million times already, so that would be my next goal, and then hopefully semis after that, and then I can focus on finals. But there are so many good players in this draw, and I know that everyone wants to win. So, my first immediate thought is not to win (the championship).”
Osaka, who defeated her idol, Serena Williams, in the U.S. Open final, was asked whether Williams was considered the player to beat in Melbourne.
“I’m pretty sure,” Osaka said. “But there is a group of players that everyone thinks are very difficult to play against, especially in Grand Slams. But you’ll have to ask someone else because I don’t talk to other people, so I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
Osaka said one of her offseason goals was to be more mature, but confessed she sometimes thought her mentality was that of a three-year-old.
“I feel like just leveling that out was one of the biggest goals I had in the offseason,” she said.
Reporters, however, commented that she seemed more comfortable talking with the media than she had in the past.
“In press (settings) I feel more comfortable, because I’m just being asked questions,” Osaka said. “But when you have to do small talk, you know, ‘Hello, how are you?’ after that I don’t know what to do. I go, ‘OK then’ and walk away.”
“I feel like I’m more comfortable talking to people. I’ve been put in the position where I have to and it’s not something I can avoid anymore. But next time I walk into the press room I’ll be like ‘Whassup?’
“It’s like if I’m talking to someone one-on-one it stresses me out. Because if I tell you guys a joke, there is a 50-50 chance that at least three of you are going to laugh. I don’t know if it’s a pity laugh, but at least it’s a laugh, right? But if it’s one-on-one and that person doesn’t laugh, I just want to leave.”
She did, however, talk about chatting with former World No. 1 Andy Murray in Brisbane only to hear days later he would retire during the current season.
“At first, I couldn’t really believe it because I feel like I’ve been watching him for so long, it’s kind of weird when people announce that they’re going to retire,” Osaka said.
“For me, I felt really sad because I’d never really talked to him before Brisbane and then we started talking and he was so nice, he was a super nice person and now I feel like I lost, he’s not a friend, but I lost someone who could be a friend and I also know that he’s motivated, so he’s sad.”