Naomi Osaka, one of the biggest tennis stars in the world, said she is considering taking a break from the sport in an emotional post-match interview Friday night after losing in the third round of the US Open.
"I feel like, for me, recently, when I win, I don’t feel happy; I feel more like a relief. And then, when I lose, I feel very sad," Osaka, 23, said. "I don't think that's normal."
A US Open defending champion, Osaka lost to Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded 18-year-old from Canada, after a difficult match Friday.
"This is very hard to articulate. 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 after the game, tearing up. "I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while."
During the third-round match, Osaka lost her composure several times, smashing her racket on the court at one point. She later apologized and said she was not sure why she responded that way.
"I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point," she said. "Like, normally, I feel like I like challenges. But recently, I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way, and I feel like you can feel that."
Osaka has openly shared her struggles with the pressure of the sport and the expectations that come with playing at the top level. The US Open was the first Grand Slam tournament she has competed in since withdrawing in May from the French Open, where she was fined $15,000 for declining to participate in press conferences to protect her mental health.
Osaka's withdrawal sparked a conversation about athletes' mental health and the lack of support from organizations that benefit from their success.
Her first public appearance since withdrawing from the French Open was at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games in July, where she lit the Olympic cauldron.
The day before her first US Open round, Osaka posted a statement on Twitter about her struggles with celebrating her accomplishments.
"Recently I've been asking myself why do I feel the way I do and I realize one of the reasons is because internally I think I'm never good enough," she wrote. "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."