Naomi Osaka regained her composure to breeze into the second round of the Miami Open on Wednesday before revealing she has begun working with a therapist to deal with the issues which saw her make a tearful exit at Indian Wells earlier this month.
The Japanese star, who had time away from the sport in 2021 because of mental health problems, has sought help after struggling to deal with being heckled in California during her loss to Veronika Kudermetova.
The four-time Grand Slam champion showed tremendous poise at the Hard Rock Stadium to beat world number 96 Astra Sharma 6-3 6-4 and move into the second round.
With world number one Ashleigh Barty stunning the sporting world by announcing her retirement at the age of just 25, the gruelling effect the professional tennis tour has on body and mind has been brought into sharp focus.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I finally started talking to a therapist after Indian Wells,” Osaka said.
“It only took like a year after the French Open (in 2021 when she announced she was taking a break).
“She kind of told me strategies and stuff. I realise how helpful it is. I’m glad that I have people around me that told me to, like, go in that direction.
“But, yeah, I was basically just remembering all the things that she told me to do, just to take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to.”
Osaka’s decision to step away from tennis last year was seen by many as a watershed moment for high profile sports stars who opt to prioritize mental wellbeing.
When asked why she finally made the decision to go into therapy, the 24-year-old said: “Honestly because my sister kind of, like, seemed very concerned for me.
“I don’t know. Like I feel like I’ve been trying a lot of different things because I tend to internalize things, and I also want to do everything by myself.”
She said advice from coach Wim Fissette had also steered her to seek help.
“Wim kind of put it in a really good way. He was like, ‘You hire a coach for tennis, for fitness. The mind is such a big thing. If you can, like, get a professional to help you out .5 percent, that alone is worth it.'”
Osaka, who will play German Angelique Kerber next, added during an on-court interview after Wednesday’s win: “The last match I played (at Indian Wells) wasn’t the greatest memory for me.
“I just wanted to prove I could come back out here, compete and have the best attitude I could.”
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