Months after her inspiring decision to prioritize her mental health by opting out of press engagements at the French Open, Naomi Osaka recently reflected on her mental health journey thus far and shared the daily “ritual” that helps keep her grounded.
As the No. 3 ranked women’s tennis player, the highest-paid female athlete in the world for two consecutive years, this year’s Best Athlete in Women’s Sports and a four-time Grand Slam champion, Osaka’s influence in the sports world can’t be denied. When the 23-year-old announced her decision to forgo press at the French Open — one that subsequently got her fined $15,000 — Osaka received support from many but lots of criticism from others. Some even referred to her as a “diva,” and claimed that instead of bringing awareness to mental health and its impact on athletes, she was “weaponizing mental health” itself.
In her latest magazine feature, the tennis champion shared that her temperament has always set her aside from the crowd.
“Growing up being [labeled] ‘the quiet one’ puts you in a box and, even worse, makes you stand out when all you want is to blend in,” Osaka told Women’s Health recently as the cover of their September 2021 issue. “But now I try to embrace and own it.”
And “owning it” is exactly what fans and supporters have been seeing her do.
Osaka ended up withdrawing from the French Open after being penalized for putting her mental health first. In the weeks that followed, she also withdrew from competing in the German Open and Wimbledon to spend time with her family and continue taking the time she needed to get her mind right.
“I never wanted media training,” she told Women’s Health. “Because I didn’t want to change my personality to offer a canned response that didn’t feel like me. Yes, some people may find my personality different, just as they do my mixed-race background, but I find it to be the thing that makes me uniquely myself.”
“I hope I was able to help some people and for them to see that even athletes are still humans like the rest of us,” the athlete said in the aftermath of all the controversy surrounding her courageous choice. “And we all are dealing with something in our lives.”
The tennis champion also shared that a “ritual” that helps “dull” her social anxiety the most is popping in her headphones before she steps onto the court for a match.
“Music calms me, it silences the noise that won’t help my game,” Osaka explained, before adding that Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Saweetie are the artists she tends to play before a match. “For me, music is inspiring and uplifting.”