NEW YORK — After losing in the third round at the US Open on Friday night, a tearful Naomi Osaka said she wasn’t sure when she will next play a competitive tennis match and will be taking an indefinite break from the sport.
In a news conference following the 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss to Leylah Fernandez, Osaka told reporters the sport was no longer bringing her joy.
“I feel like for me recently, like, when I win, I don’t feel happy,” Osaka said. “I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal.”
Osaka, 23, began to cry and the moderator attempted to end the media session, but she said she wanted to continue.
“Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” Osaka said. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
The news conference was then abruptly finished.
The defending US Open champion and a four-time major winner, Osaka struggled throughout much of the match against the 18-year-old Fernandez at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and her frustration was visible. She smashed her racket on the court and at one point threw it. She was later issued a warning for hitting a ball into the stands. After losing the second-set tiebreaker, she left the court for a bathroom break with her head draped in a towel.
Osaka has played sparingly since withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round match in May. Before the tournament, Osaka said she wouldn’t be participating in news conferences at Roland Garros, citing her mental health, and the decision sparked a firestorm. She was fined after opting out of her media obligations following her opening-round win and then withdrew from the event.
She later revealed in a post on social media that she had experienced “long bouts of depression” following her breakthrough US Open win in 2018. Osaka then skipped Wimbledon and didn’t play again until the Olympic Games in her native Japan. She played in just one lead-in event before the US Open, losing in the round of 16 to Jil Teichmann at the Western & Southern Open.
Despite her lack of matches, Osaka said she was feeling pleased with the state of her game entering the US Open during a pre-tournament news conference, calling it “really nice” to be back. Osaka had advanced to the third round via walkover after her second-round opponent, Olga Danilovic, withdrew with illness. She defeated Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1 in the first round Monday.
While the US Open is the year’s final major, the WTA Finals and the pandemic-delayed BNP Paribas Open, a 1000-level event, both remain, as well as other smaller tournaments.