Naomi Osaka has won her first match at the Olympics over the weekend since taking a leave of absence from tennis to focus on her mental health.
23-year-old Osaka withdrew from the French Open amid intense scrutiny over her decision to abandon media appearances. She skipped Wimbledon earlier this month as well, Fox News reports.
On Sunday (July 25), Osaka spoke to reporters for the first time since revealing her plans to avoid reporters and press conferences at tennis events.
“More than anything else I’m just focused on playing tennis,” Osaka said after defeating Zheng Saisai of China in straight sets. “The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed, and I’m happy again.”
The tennis star added, “There’s nothing wrong with my body, I just felt really nervous. I haven’t played since France, so there were definitely some things that I did a bit wrong, but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”
Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron to signify the official start of the Games. She said the moment was, “Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life. I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness. Love you guys thank you.”
“When I lit the flame I was super honored. I think that’s a position that you dream about, and not anyone can do it, so for me when they asked me if I wanted to, I was very surprised but very honored, and I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo,” she said.
Osaka will play Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic in the next round.