January 27, 2019 08:08:24
Naomi Osaka jokingly admits she probably says no more than “10 sentences” a day, such is her quietly spoken nature.
- Naomi Osaka blew three championship points before eventually winning in three sets
- Osaka becomes the new world number one after beating Petra Kvitova in the final
- Her victory follows her US Open triumph last year
It therefore came as little surprise when she revealed she kept it short when telling herself how she was going to work her way back into the Australian Open final, just as her hopes of victory seemed to be teetering on the brink disaster.
Having blown three championship points before losing four straight games to hand the second set to Petra Kvitova, Osaka briefly left the centre court in Rod Laver Arena with a towel over her head to hide the fact she was crying.
It was at this break in play, just before the third and deciding set got underway, that she delivered herself a simple message: have no regrets.
“It didn’t really take that long [to regroup],” Osaka told a packed media conference at Melbourne Park a few hours after her 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-4 win.
“I didn’t have a choice on how long the break was. I don’t know, I felt like I didn’t want to have any regrets.
“I think if I didn’t regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried or something.”
Telling herself to leave nothing out on the court meant the player who emerged for the third set was a far cry from the one who finished the second in such an emotional state.
“I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot sort of,” Osaka said.
“I was just executing my orders. I just did what I’ve been practising my whole life in a way.”
The fact Osaka could rebound in the manner in which she did and beat a player of Kvitova’s quality speaks volumes about the mental strength of the 21-year-old.
She had previously shown her toughness when she ignored the drama of Serena Williams’s meltdown during last year’s controversial US Open final to win in straight sets.
When reflecting on her successful Melbourne Park campaign, which not only gave her a second major title but also meant she was the new world number one, Osaka touched on her mental fortitude.
She felt this was exhibited during her run to the final when twice she fought back from a set down to win and remain alive in the tournament.
“I think as a whole, this tournament was very eye-opening for me,” said Osaka, who was the fourth seed in Melbourne.
“I had a lot of matches that were very tough and I was behind in some of them. I think it showed me that I could win matches from behind, just on willpower alone.”
Kvitova proud of her emotional journey
Strong willpower is a trait Osaka shares with Kvitova.
The Czech at times had wondered if she would ever play tennis again following a horrific home invasion in late 2016, which left her with severe hand injuries.
Kvitova was stabbed in her dominant left hand and held at knifepoint by an assailant in the attack, which took place in her apartment in the Czech Republic city of Prostejov in the week prior to Christmas.
Her injuries required a lengthy operation, however remarkably the two-time Wimbledon champion returned to professional tennis the following May.
The Australian Open final was the deepest Kvitova has gone at a major since the attack and although disappointed to lose, she knew how far she had come.
“I wanted to win and have the trophy,” Kvitova said.
“But I think I already won two years ago. So for me, it’s amazing. I think I still don’t really realise that I played the final.
“I didn’t know if I was going to hold the racquet again.”
January 27, 2019 07:09:48