Naomi Osaka saw success against Alize Cornet during the Melbourne Summer Set 2022 / Picture Credit: Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images
Naomi Osaka saw success against Alize Cornet during the Melbourne Summer Set 2022 / Picture Credit: Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images

Naomi Osaka made her return to tennis yesterday after having a three-month hiatus from the sport.

The Japanese star took a break after realising that winning no longer made her happy and losing made her feel “very sad,” and she wanted to prioritise her mental health instead of results and rankings.

This is becoming more and more common in young women in sport – Emma Raducanu retired from Wimbledon and Simone Biles stepped away from certain events at the Olympics.

The 24-year-old received a lot of criticism at the French Open last year when she refused to take part in her media duties.

During the next press conference after her withdrawal from Roland Garros she broke down in tears as a result of certain members of the press being aggressive in their questioning of her taking advantage of the media.

But now the young tennis star has promised she’s never going to cry in a pressroom again.

““For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun, I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could,” the four-time Grand Slam winner explained.

“Also, I have a goal in the pressroom, that I’m never going to cry again, so hopefully that works out in my favour.

“I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that and I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again – because that’s the reason why I was playing in the first place.”

Osaka returned to her winning ways in her first competitive match since her break away from the sport, beating Alize Cornet in the first event of the season, the Melbourne Summer Set.

However, this return is earlier than anyone expected, even more prematurely than the reigning Australian Open champion expected.

“I actually really thought I wasn’t going to play for most of this year,” the 24-year-old told reporters at the competition.

“I’m really happy with myself that I love the sport that much because I literally said that I was unsure when I was going to play after the US Open and I’m here right now.

“In the break I was feeling like I didn’t know what my future was going to be, I’m pretty sure a lot of people can relate to that, of course you never know what the future holds, but it was definitely an indecisive time – but I’m happy to be sitting here right now.”

Osaka put her mental health first and now she’s reaping the benefits, doing this should be more accepted in the sport world and society as a whole because burnout is a real thing and mental health shouldn’t be being ignored in 2022.

RELATED: Duchess of Sussex supported Naomi Osaka after French Open withdrawal

Words by Lucy Roberts for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @Lucy_Roberts_72.

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