Naomi Osaka, the 20-year-old tennis phenom who became U.S. Open champ last month, says “the hype” of celebrity is a bit much, reports BBC Sports.
Osaka made global news last month when she beat the legendary Serena Williams in Flushing, N.Y. in a match that drew controversy. During the final match, Williams admonished a tennis official who fined her after claiming that her coach was signaling to her from the sidelines.
Since then, Osaka has signed a lucrative deal with Adidas, appeared on TV with Ellen DeGeneres and has even had Black Panther” star Michael Jordan, on whom she has admitted a crush, send her a video note.
“I think definitely as the weeks go by, I have this feeling of wanting to prove myself,” Osaka, a player of Haitian descent from Japan, told Agence France Presse. “I think that sort of takes a toll on me a little bit because I stress myself out in a way.”
Osaka lost 6-4, 6-4 to unseeded Anastasija Sevastova while struggling with a back injury in the China Open semifinals Saturday.
Osaka told AFP she is feeling the pressure.
“If you don’t win a tournament, then people will say, ‘Oh, she hasn’t won a tournament,’ ” Osaka said. “If you haven’t won a Slam, they’ll say, ‘She hasn’t won a Slam.’ Then, if you win one Grand Slam, they’re like, ‘Oh, she only won one Grand Slam.’ “
Osaka added, “I know it’s bad but I sort of read the comments. I’m just like, ‘Oh, I guess I have to do more, to be better.’ “
On Friday, Osaka was unhappy with her performance in Friday’s quarter-final win over Zhang Shuai. She was close to tears during the second set and tossed her racquet, AFP reported.
She told the news agency that her back has been bothering her since the tournament started.
“I’m kind of happy that I was able to get this far,” she told AFP.