Naomi Osaka is somehow finding the courage to compete in this weekend’s French Open.
The 24-year-old Osaka is competing after being fined $15,000 for skipping media availability at last year’s Open, then opted to withdraw from the tournament, citing anxiety.
In the midst of her stated anxiety and desire to be removed from the public eye, she found time to pose for the cover of Japan Vogue magazine. A short time later, admitted introvert Osaka made her way into a photoshoot for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
Apparently those very public photo shoots and the corresponding exposure that comes with being on some of the most well-known magazines in the world, has allowed Osaka to ease her anxiety and find her way back to the Grand Slam.
“I’m not going to lie. When I first came here, I was very worried, Osaka told assembled media members. “I was just kind of worried if there would be people that — of course, I also didn’t like how I handled the situation (last summer) — but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would just kind of bump into them.”
Naomi Osaka says her return to the French Open has been "positive for the most part" after initially worrying what the reaction would be to her pulling out of last year's event.
"I'm not gonna lie. When I first came here I was very worried" 💬
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— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 20, 2022
Osaka, who’s first match is scheduled for Sunday, continued her comments from Paris: “But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I’m not really so sure. I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I’d get a lot of questions about this.”
She also added that though she’s scheduled to compete, her anxiety is not yet a thing of the past. “For me, where I am right now, I wouldn’t want to say — it hasn’t left my mind,” Osaka told reporters Friday. “Of course, I’m still thinking about it.”
Previously the top-ranked women’s player in the world, Osaka enters the weekend ranked 38th.
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