• AFP-JIJI

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Naomi Osaka remained the picture of calm answering questions on Wednesday after staging a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over Coco Gauff to reach the third round of the WTA Cincinnati Masters.

The shy Japanese second seed’s anxiety over attending obligatory post-match news conferences was nowhere to be seen as she explained possible reasons for her emotional crisis, which erupted three months ago when she withdrew after playing one match at the French Open.

She said speaking with reporters was damaging her mental health.

“With everything going on in Haiti (her father’s homeland) and Afghanistan, things are really crazy,” the four-time Grand Slam winner said.

“It’s crazy for me to be in the U.S. hitting a tennis ball and people come and watch me play.”

Osaka, who grew up in New York, sounded as if she is trying to come to grips with the mental issues that had been bothering her recently, ones that caused her to step away from the game after withdrawing from the French Open. She also skipped Wimbledon before returning for the Tokyo Olympics.

This is her first event since she went out in the third round at the Games.

“I wonder what affected me so much and made me not want to do media. (Maybe) I was scared of bad headlines,” she said.

“I should feel like I’m winning (in life), having people come to watch me is an accomplishment.

“But that started not being an accomplishment for me — I was ungrateful.”

Osaka said coping with COVID-19 might also have been a factor.

“Some of the stress may have come from living in COVID (tennis) bubbles and not seeing (outside) people,” she said.

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