Naomi Osaka has opened up about her struggle with shyness and said she is now able to conduct interviews in “full sentences” rather than one-word answers.
“I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep, and most of the regret is that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking,” she told CNN.
The tennis season was halted in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Osaka, 22, has used the time to try to overcome her shyness.
“There’s a lot of times where I see myself in situations where I could have put my input in, but instead I’ve held my tongue and things kept moving in a way that I didn’t really enjoy,” she said. “I feel like if I asserted myself I would have gotten the opportunity to see what would have happened.”
Osaka continued: “Even right now, maybe a couple of years ago I would be very, very shy to do this interview and you would only get like two words out of me, but now we’re getting full sentences!”
Osaka said she was unable to hold a conversation with rap superstar Jay-Z when they met on holiday last year.
She said: “He started talking to me, but I got really nervous and started giving one-word replies so he suddenly said, ‘Are you shy?’ and I said, ‘yeah,’ and the convo came to a screeching halt.”
Osaka rose to prominence with two consecutive Grand Slam victories, winning the US Open in September 2018 with a straight-sets win over Serena Williams, and defeating Petra Kvitova to win the Australian Open in last January.
The Japanese star suffered a dip in form after winning the title in Australia and said she went through “the worst months” of her life during that period. Osaka has slipped down to world No. 10 after saying she struggled with the weight of expectations after becoming world No. 1 last year.
These days, she is spending less time on the tennis court.
“It’s not like I’ll forget how to play tennis, and I also don’t want to train five hours a day right now because that’s how you get burned out and you never know when tournaments will start again,” she said.
“I feel like I want to take this time to learn something new or to improve because I’m pretty sure I won’t have this much free time ever again.”
American star Coco Gauff also discussed living with depression last month and said she considered taking a year away from the sport.