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Naomi Osaka tosses her racket to herself after losing to Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the third round of the US Open
Osaka said it was "very hard to articulate" how she was feeling after the matchImage: Frank Franklin II/AP/picture alliance

Naomi Osaka to take break from tennis

September 4, 2021

The world No. 3 tennis player broke down in tears as she announced her decision to withdraw temporarily from the sport.

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Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said she will take a break from playing tennis. Osaka announced her decision at a press conference after losing in the third round of the US Open on Friday night.

Canadian Leylah Fernandez scored a 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 surprise victory over the defending US Open champion.

Osaka's upset came on the same court where she defeated Serena Williams in 2018, making her a global tennis star.

What did Osaka say?

Osaka said she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do next and that she "didn't know" when she was going to play her next tennis match.

"I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while," Osaka said, in tears. 

She added she felt relief rather than happiness when she won matches. "And then when I lose, I feel very sad." She said she didn't think the reaction was "normal."

Nothing appeared off in a routine opening set where Osaka won. But things began to unravel in the second set when Fernandez forced a tie-break. As the Canadian 18-year-old took control and eventually won, Osaka repeatedly slammed her racquet and then left the court.

Several tennis stars have smashed their racquets during matches before. But Osaka, who is 23 years old, is known for her calm composure on the court.

"I'm not really sure why," Osaka said when reporters asked her about why she lost her cool. "I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.

"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," she added.

Osaka stands up for mental health 

Over the last week, Osaka, who is soft-spoken and a self-confessed introvert, has written about the importance of believing in oneself and ignoring the weight of other people's expectations.

The US Open was Osaka's first Grand Slam tournament since pulling out of the French Open earlier this year, where she disclosed her battle with depression. Most recently, she sat out Wimbledon and was knocked out in the third round of the Olympics.

rm/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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