THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can you just talk through the match a little bit? What do you think you did more kind of in the first set to kind of reign things in? It seemed like you ran away with it in the end.
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I think in the first set I was just really flat footed. I didn’t feel like I was moving well at all. I don’t remember the specific — what was the first set? 6-4? Well, it was like her last service game, so I guess it was 4-4. Then I just tried to really hype myself up.
From there, I just — I don’t know. From there I felt like I did do better. My mindset was just to keep trying to get my feet moving and stay pumped up and positive.
Q. You looked really aggressive on your returns, even on the first serves, trying to really hit it hard and going for aces. Did you have any mindset changes? Was that something that just naturally happened?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, it’s a little bit natural. And at the same time, I know that she’s an aggressive player, too. I don’t necessarily want to give her a softball right off her serve and then she can just hit a winner off of it. I think it’s a little bit half and half.
Q. Were you able to do it well? How do you think about it?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I won (smiling).
Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I do think that on the second serve sometimes I tried to go a little bit too aggressive, and it was, like, a really bad error. But I think that was part of the learning process. From there, I was able to, like, see how much I can reel it in or not.
Q. When you talk about your second-serve return, what is — I guess looking back on the development of that shot, what was the best kind of advice or tip or coaching that you got on it? Is it mindset? Is it technique?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, recently Jay was telling me not to, like, swing so much. Because he tells me that my — it’s more on my forehand side, but it’s a little bit too — the takeback is too big. I have been working on that, and I think it’s getting better.
So I guess that’s a good advice that I got recently.
Q. You’re playing Bencic next, both from the year 1997. Any shared memories with her that you have?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, I remember I most recently played her at Hopman Cup. I lost that match.
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s really amazing, the things that she’s done and the fact that she was able to come back from her injury and still play at a really top level. I know we both really want to win this next match.
Yeah, I mean, I think we are both looking forward to it. Because we are the same age, I know that people are going to hype this match up. It should be fun.
Q. What sort of a game plan would you take into that match? What would you focus on in an effort to turn the tables from the last time?
NAOMI OSAKA: I mean, I just think the last time I played, I hit too many unforced errors. But that was in the beginning of 2018 when you guys didn’t know who I was (smiling).
So, yeah, I think that was the biggest thing for me.
Q. Just a question about winning nine matches in a row here and playing a lot of these matches, not sure if you played all of them on the big stadium. You’re looking comfortable there, like you could play your best pretty easy because you like the surface and the sight lines? Is it a place you feel at home in?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I feel, for me, I really love this tournament. I think that some people say it’s kind of slow. But for me, I feel like it’s kind of perfect for the way that I like to play.
I feel really used to the stadium, because I have played the finals last year, and I have been fortunate enough to play twice already.
So, yeah, I think that helps a lot. And also, I am a hard court player. It’s not a secret. So I think that’s also a very good advantage.
Q. Belinda has quite a varied game. I think you’ve said you don’t really enjoy playing her because she mixes it up. What’s the mentality you take into a match like that? Do you feel like, Oh, this is going to be fun, or are you not looking forward to it?
NAOMI OSAKA: No, I’m looking forward to my match tomorrow. I think it’s because she just won Dubai, and I like challenges and I’m kind of looking forward to it a lot.
Yeah, other than that, I didn’t really think about anything that she was gonna do.
Q. You played her in an ITF in 2013, Alabama. Do you remember that match at all?
NAOMI OSAKA: (Nods.)
Q. If so, what do you remember?
NAOMI OSAKA: I could tell you a story about that day, but I’m not going to too (smiling).
I remember I didn’t eat that entire day. So I just went onto the court, and I just decided to hit everything, and luckily it went in, and I think that’s how I won, to be honest.
She was just really, like, shocked, I think, because we were around the same age, but I didn’t really play juniors, so nobody really knew who I was.
Yeah, she was, like, a really big junior star. She still is a star. That’s how I tell that story.
Q. Tsitsipas lost the other day, and afterwards he said he was a little bit burnt out. Maybe that’s a byproduct of playing a lot of matches. He’s had a successful run. Have you dealt with that before, playing a lot of matches and feeling, like, I need a little break here? How do you deal with those type of things?
NAOMI OSAKA: Eww. I want to tell a joke so bad.
Q. Go for it.
NAOMI OSAKA: I was going to say, the difference between me and Mr. Top 10 is I didn’t play as many tournaments as him. Like, I think after Australian Open, he played a ridiculously huge amount of tournaments, and he did well in all of them. So that might have been a problem.
Because for me, I like to focus on, you know, the main tournaments. Not saying that, like, all tournaments aren’t important, but, like, Grand Slams and Indian Wells and Miami, of course, are, like, one of the biggest.
Yeah, I just think, like, scheduling is really important. Like, having a goal. Like, for me, I just like to have fun now and practice what I’m practicing during — apply what I’m practicing in matches.
Q. Are you totally getting used to being watched by hundreds of people during the practice before the match?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah. I mean, it is different from last year, but I think I am getting used to it. I have been practicing on Court 3 for the past few days, and I’m really grateful there is a lot of people that come out and watch. I try to sign all of the signatures. I know I can’t, but…
Yeah, I mean, I think I’m slowly getting used to it.
(Naomi’s answers to questions in Japanese.)
NAOMI OSAKA: Actually, yeah, of course I wanted to play more aggressive than her today. I didn’t want to give her a chance to overpower me in any way.
But there were some rallies where I thought that she did hit very fast and hard. But for the most part, I thought I made her go on her back foot a lot. So the pace of the ball was kind of suitable for me.
Yeah, I mean, I think just today you just have one of those days, you know. And I think for me maybe in the past I wouldn’t have been able to win this match, because I wouldn’t have been able to know how to win without playing perfect.
Yeah, I mean, recently this year I have been doing well with these types of feelings and flat-footedness, I guess.
And then, yeah, the second part of your question, I forgot because I’m sleepy. I’m sorry.
No, I mean — yeah, I mean, I think in the first round I was more happy, because I was feeling like I was getting — I don’t know why, but after I lost in Dubai, I took — I felt like I took Australian Open for granted.
Because I don’t know if I’m the only one that does this, but after I lose a match, I think, when is the next time I’m going to win, you know? So then I was feeling like that. Then when I came here, I was just really happy that I was playing well and I won that match.
And then now, today, I just — I feel like I don’t really have that same appreciation as last time, and I’m more, like, going into work mode a little bit. So if that explains why I wasn’t, like, smiling so much.
Okay. I opened Twitter, and then I saw that it was, like, 7-6 in the third. But then I heard that Nishioka was up 5-1 in the third. So I was, like, yo.
And I’m kind of sad that I didn’t get to watch it. Which one were you guys watching, actually? Both? Oh, my God. Talent (smiling).
Yeah, I heard that it was a really incredible match, and I know that — for me, I always knew that Nishioka is really good, can run everything. It’s crazy. Can I call them kids? I’m going to call them kids. Sorry.
But the kid he’s playing, the Canadian, I watched him play before, and I also thought he was really good. So I knew this match was going to be amazing. I’m kind of sad that I missed it.
I don’t really make a habit to read stuff about myself. I sort of made that mistake early on in my career. It’s scarring. Like, it’s literally traumatizing. So I refuse.
But if there’s anything nice, then you can tell me.
Oh. Not really.
Well, I just thought — I feel like we all push each other. So when I saw her, like, enter the top 10 and win Ryder Cup, I thought, you know, I need to pick up my game. I just thought it was really inspiring.
There were things I learned. Like, when I was younger back then, I thought, I’m late. Like, I should be there too, maybe. But then I realize everyone has their own paths and stuff.
So, yeah. I think I was inspired back then, but I was also a little bit sad because I wasn’t sure if I was doing well enough or whatever.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #366 at 2019-03-12 04:09:00 GMT