Osaka ‘worried’ about Roland-Garros return after 2021 withdrawal

Naomi Osaka admitted on Friday that she was “worried” about her return to Roland Garros, fearing she had “offended” people when she controversially left the 2021 tournament. The Japanese superstar, former world number one and a four-time major winner, withdrew from Roland Garros 12 months ago after being fined and threatened with a Grand Slam ban for refusing to honor media commitments.

Osaka, the world’s highest-earning sportswoman last year with an income of $55million, later took a break from sports, revealing she was suffering from depression.

“I’m not going to lie. Like when I first arrived here I was very worried,” the 24-year-old said as she attended the official Roland Garros press day which begins Sunday.

“I was just a little worried that there were people I was offending in some way and I was kind of meeting them.

“Of course, I didn’t like the way I handled the situation either.”

Osaka, who retired after just one match in 2021, also skipped Wimbledon that season.

But there were still signs of her discomfort in the public eye when she cried on the Indian Wells pitch in March this year after a spectator shouted ‘Naomi, you suck’ as she walked plummeted to a second-round loss.

“I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew that I was going to receive a lot of questions,” she added on Friday.

“I think for me where I am right now, I wouldn’t want to say it hasn’t left my mind.

“Of course I’m still thinking about it, and also preparing myself in case I go out on the field and a fan says something like Indian Wells. Yeah, for the most part I think it’s okay.”

Osaka said her recent steamy public experiences have left her more reserved and less spontaneous than at the start of her career.

“I feel like I was funnier back then. Like I was able to tell jokes and didn’t really care if anyone understood,” she said .

“I could explain the joke again and whatever. I feel like what’s changed is I’m trying to figure out the crowd. I feel like I’m a comedian and I’m trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong.”

Osaka’s bruised and frustrating 12 months saw her world ranking drop to 38, leaving her unseeded in Paris.

In the first round, she faces the 27th seeded American Amanda Anisimova, semi-finalist in 2019.

Anisimova knocked out Osaka from the Australian Open in the third round this year.

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“I did that exhibition game with her in Indian Wells, and she totally killed me. So hopefully I get more than two points,” she said.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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