Naomi Osaka: “I have a lot of regrets.” Tennis champion talks about her crippling shyness

Naomi Osaka: "I have a lot of regrets." Tennis champion talks about her crippling shyness


But in this moment of pause, a period of lockout without tennis and without expectations, the 22-year-old seeks to face an opponent from within: her crippling shyness.
“For me, I have a lot of regrets before I fall asleep, and most of the regret is not talking about what I’m thinking,” she said, speaking to CNN Sport from her Los Angeles kitchen. at home.

The night before this interview, the world No.10 – who topped the world rankings for the first time in 2019 – unusually posted a series of intriguing tweets that revealed to the world her inner struggle.

“I’m done being shy. It really is a waste of time, ”she wrote. “I could have shared so many ideas now, I could have had conversations with so many different people. All the things I could have learned but no I’m here putting my own limiter on myself.

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She says her inability to speak up has sometimes led to her withdrawing decisions.

“There are a lot of times I see myself in situations where I could have made my contribution, but instead I held my tongue and things kept moving in a way that I didn’t. didn’t really like it, ”she explains. “I feel like if I was assertive, I would have had the opportunity to see what would have happened.”

`` A few years ago, I might be very, very shy to do this interview, '' Osaka says.

‘I would like to thank Jay-Z and Beyoncé’

But a missed opportunity that plays out over and over in his mind has nothing to do with tennis. It involves his biggest idols, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

During an off-season hiatus in 2019, she met the superstar couple while vacationing in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos but could barely utter a sentence.

“He started talking to me, but I got very nervous and started to say one word, so he suddenly said, ‘Are you shy? and I said, “yeah”, and the conversation abruptly ended. “

Jay Z and Beyonce are two of the most successful musical artists in the world.

It’s a deeply human admission from a global sports star who, in fact, is like the rest of us when it comes to feeling hit by a star. The difference is, she’ll likely meet them again, and by then the tennis star knows what she’d like to say.

“I want to take the opportunity to tell people that I appreciate them as much as I can,” she says.

“I would like to thank Jay-Z and Beyoncé for making music that motivates me, because there was a period in my life when I just watched Beyoncé’s performances to motivate me.

“Even now I’m listening to older Jay-Z songs because I feel like they’re really cool.”

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“Now we are talking in full sentences!

Despite all of her inhibitions and self-censorship, Osaka also knows how far she has come. With a half-smile, she recalls a time early in her career when even stepping into a tournament locker room was a heart-pounding challenge.

“I was very shy and didn’t know what to do or where to put my things,” she says.

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“Even now, maybe a few years ago, I would be very, very shy to do this interview and you will only get two words from me, but now we are getting full sentences!”

This period of reflection has occurred because his tennis career is on hold as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, she would have tried to regain the form which allowed her to win consecutively the US Open and the Australian Open.

But without a tennis court, partner, or way to practice, Osaka accepted the situation for what it has become: as close as it will ever get to a “ normal life. ”

“For me it’s a little worrying, but I know other players are probably in the same position as me,” she said.

“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 exhausted and you never know when tournaments will resume. ”

Osaka won the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019.

But she already knows that when she does, she will be different.

“I’ll have a feeling of gratitude more because you never know when something like this will happen again and I miss tennis a lot,” she said.

Time is fleeting and Osaka tries to make every day count.

“I feel like I want to take this time to learn something new or to improve myself because I’m pretty sure I’ll never have so much free time again,” she says.

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