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Tennis news – Naomi vows to celebrate herself and her accomplishments more ahead of US Open title defence

Tennis news - Naomi vows to celebrate herself and her accomplishments more ahead of US Open title defence

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Naomi Osaka says she intends to celebrate herself and her accomplishments more, as she prepares to start the defence of her US Open title.

World No 3 Osaka has had a challenging few months after withdrawing from the French Open in early June to protect her mental health.

She skipped Wimbledon, lost in the third round of her home Olympics in Tokyo, and was beaten in her second match at the Western & Southern Open this month. She has also faced plenty of questions about her relationship with the media after deciding not to do press conferences in Paris.

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Ahead of the final Grand Slam of the year, Osaka took to social media to urge others to join her in celebrating the small victories in life more.

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“Recently I’ve been asking myself why do I feel the way I do and I realise one of the reasons is because internally, I think I’m never good enough,” she said on Instagram.

“I’ve never told myself that I’ve done a good job but I do know I constantly tell myself that I suck or I could do better. I know in the past some people have called me humble but if I really consider it I think I’m extremely self-deprecating. Every time a new opportunity arises my first thought is ‘wow, why me?’.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m gonna try to celebrate myself and my accomplishments more, I think we all should.”

Third seed Osaka will open her US Open campaign against Marie Bouzkova in the night session on Monday. She beat Victoria Azarenka in last year’s final and also won the Australian Open in February.

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“Your life is your own and you shouldn’t value yourself on other people’s standards,” added Osaka.

“I know I give my heart to everything I can and if that’s not good enough for some, then my apologies, but I can’t burden myself with those expectations anymore.”

Despite losing early in both her previous tournaments, Osaka says she is happy with her form heading into the US Open.

Last year in New York the 23-year-old wore masks ahead of every match to highlight racial injustice in the United States, and she was also praised for speaking out about mental health at the French Open. Even though she is often making her voice heard, she says still finds it difficult to focus her mind entirely on tennis when she steps on the court.

Osaka left in tears, has to leave press conference after exchange with reporter

“It would be nice if there was that line for me, but no. I’m the type of person that everything is sort of the same. I feel like maybe you could see it earlier on in my career. If there was something that was not right in my personal life, you could kind of see it in my playing.

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“So it would be really cool if I could draw that line and be able to be like a robot Superman that could go on the court, focus just on tennis. But, no, I’m the type that kind of focuses on everything at one time. That’s why everything is sort of muddled to me.”

‘Don’t underestimate Osaka’

Even though Osaka has not looked in peak form heading into the US Open, 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova thinks she could still shine in New York.

Osaka was given the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron at Tokyo 2020 but admitted the pressure at her home Games was a “bit too much”.

With Tokyo now behind her, Navratilova expects Osaka to be more relaxed and play her best tennis.

“Absolutely. She’s done it before, where she was like, ‘uh, what’s going on with her?’ – and then she wins. Wins Australia, wins the US Open. You cannot underestimate her; she is too good for that. She’ll be ready,” Navratilova told the WTA.

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“The Olympics was a lot of pressure for her. I don’t know if I could have walked up those steps to light the Olympic torch. Talk about pressure, right? Talk about being out of your comfort zone.

“The whole world is watching, you really don’t want to trip at that point. Maybe after that, she can just relax, play her best tennis. Shine. She’s done it the hard way against Serena the first time [2018], she’s done it the hard way again with no crowd [2020].

“Now maybe she can finally do it with the crowd and no drama, just play her game. It’s all about tennis. The drama is behind her with the French Open, didn’t play Wimbledon and the Olympics had to be such a pressure cooker for her.”

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