Naomi Osaka says her tennis career has so far been nothing short of “phenomenal” but has admitted she needs to become more self-aware.
Naomi Osaka reaches first final at the French Open Read more
The 18-year-old Japanese player will attempt to win her first career Grand Slam title when she takes on the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the French Open final on Saturday.
If she does, Osaka will follow in the footsteps of another Japanese player, Misaki Doi, who reached her maiden Grand Slam final here last year.
Speaking to the Associated Press before her first final, Osaka said: “I’m thinking right now about what it’s going to be like, how much pressure it’s going to be.
“I am not scared to feel the pressure or anything, but I’m still going to treat it like it’s another game and I want to just focus on that, play my best tennis and just enjoy it.”
Asked what she had learned from her breakthrough year, Osaka replied: “I’ve seen a lot of things in the world. I’ve seen a lot of things.
“I’ve seen where my own hometown is, the state of the world, a lot of things,” she added. “I’ve seen how important that is to me. Obviously, for me, it’s also something I think I can relate to. There are so many things that I’ve seen in the world that when I look at some of the smaller things that I do, I think I can apply some of that to my life and how to improve on them and in my life.”
After fighting back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi in the semi-finals, Osaka had to fight back a little against Kuznetsova on Sunday to win in three sets, winning on a tiebreak 10-8.
Having already won three WTA titles this year, Osaka said she hoped to win her first major tournament for Japan and erase the memories of her country’s “divided emotions” over her participation in the US Open in September.
“We have two different emotions in Japan,” she said. “When I’m playing for Japan, I’m always very proud, which is really awesome.
“Then I’m just trying to enjoy every time I go on court and I think now a lot of people here are starting to be a little more aware about how much I love Japan. And actually, what I’m doing here, it’s a really great thing. It’s a big thing for me, it’s a great thing for Japanese tennis. But there’s also those days when it’s a little bit more mixed, so I’m still learning about that as well.”
It will be Osaka’s first appearance in a Grand Slam final, although she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon this year, before losing to Petra Kvitova. The 18-year-old believes her dream of winning a Grand Slam at Roland Garros is finally real.
“I just feel like all the hard work over the last year and a half has paid off,” she said. “It’s getting to where I want to be and I just think of what I’ve done in my last few months here, I hope my hard work really pays off.”
In 2012 a jumbo air bag in Osaka’s car went off and she broke two legs. The accident and her recovery was captured in the 2014 film about her, If You’re Not in the Obligation.
“You’ve got to remember that at that point my coach knew how to play but did not know how to be a really good coach,” she said of Shinobu Asagoe, her coach since 2012. “That movie that I did was kind of the pinnacle of that.”