Tennis star Naomi Osaka opened up about the heckling incident at Indian Wells on Wednesday after her opening win at the Miami Open, and revealed she has started seeing a therapist.
Osaka, speaking after her win against Astra Sharma, said it was her sister and her coach who pushed her to finally look into therapy.
“My sister seemed very concerned for me,” Osaka said, via the Palm Springs Desert Sun. “I’ve been trying a lot of different things because I tend to internalize things, and I always want to do everything myself.
“[My coach] said, ‘You hire a coach for tennis, for fitness. The mind is such a big thing. If you can get a professional to help you out 0.5 percent, that alone is worth it.’”
Osaka addresses heckling incident
Earlier this month, Osaka fell in straight sets to Veronika Kudermetova at the BNP Paribas Open in Southern California. During that match, one heckler called her out directly — and it really seemed to shake Osaka.
She was seen in tears between games, and the match was briefly stopped. The fan was booed by others in the stadium, but wasn’t ejected.
Osaka addressed the crowd after the loss, and said the incident reminded her of when Venus and Serena Williams were heckled at Indian Wells in 2001.
“The situation in Indian Wells, I’ve thought back on it and realize I’ve never been heckled. I’ve been booed, but not a direct yell-out thing,” she said Wednesday. “It kind of took me out of my element. I feel like I’m prepared for it now. I was bracing myself before the match to know it could happen. I just needed to change my mindset.”
Osaka’s struggles with mental health and anxiety over the past year have been very public. She pulled out of the French Open last year due to mental health concerns and didn’t return to the sport until the Olympics. She then said in September that tennis wasn’t fun for her.
“I feel like for me recently, like when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief,” she said in September. “And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry, but basically I feel like … I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and honestly I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.”
The four-time Grand Slam winner said Wednesday that her therapist has already helped her with strategies to help handle spectators and simply being a professional athlete.
Those tips clearly worked in her first match back.
“Honestly, for me, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today no matter what happened,” Osaka said. “The last match that I played was not the greatest memory for me. I just wanted to prove that I could come back out here and compete.”