Naomi Osaka may already be a legend on the tennis court but in the ocean, she had a terrifying off-season experience that reminded her that swimming is not her forte.
Osaka said she was vacationing in Turks and Caicos when she had a near-death experience. She said her older sister, Mari, urged her to paddleboard and all was going fine until she got caught up in a current, according to Japan Times.
“The current took us and I almost died,” Osaka said, reported Japan Times. “Listen, if you’re scared, everything becomes more exaggerated. So I’m going to tell you my story. (Mari) might say I’m lying, but this is what happened to me personally.”
Osaka said she was enjoying life when she first started off – lovely day, spotting starfish, close to the house – until a current changed everything.
“I’m freaking out a little bit, because the house is getting further. And I’m like, ‘How far out are you trying to take us?’ Because it’s black, like, the water is black now, and the house is like a tiny dot, and I can’t really swim that well,” Osaka explained to Japan Times. “And then I fall in the water, so now I’m like thinking about all the sharks in the Caribbean and I was like screaming at her (Mari), like, ‘If I die, this is on you. You’re going to have to tell mom how I died in the Turks and Caicos.”
Osaka laughs now at the experience but at the time, she said she was terrified.
“I’m like crying, and then I get back on the board and then she decides that she wants to say that she sees a shark. So now I’m like screaming and crying,” Osaka said. “But in that moment I just really thought, like, I don’t want to die like that. Yeah, that’s the end of the story.”
Mari helped her work her way back on the board and into calmer waters. Now the Australian Open champion says she’ll carry the experience with her to help her when she experiences tough matches on the tennis court.
“I just feel like I’m experiencing so many things in my life and . . . and I’m trying to take it all into, like, perspective that these are things that I’ve never thought I was going to be able to do.”
Osaka won two Grand Slam titles at the U.S. Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019. Later this month, she is set to compete in the Australian Open in Melbourne, and she’s hoping to defend her title.