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Naomi Osaka 'proud' after Australian Open loss, excited for American foe

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Naomi Osaka 'proud' after Australian Open loss, excited for American foe
Naomi Osaka said she meditates and writes in her journal to address anxiety and depression, which resulted in a mental health hiatus from tennis in 2021. Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Naomi Osaka, who struggled with expectations last season and took a mental health hiatus from tennis, said she was "proud" of herself despite a loss Friday in the third round of the 2022 Australian Open.

She also praised American Amanda Anisimova, who beat the defending champion in three sets.

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"I fought for every point," Osaka told reporters. "I can't be sad about that.

"I'm not God. I can't win every match. I have to take that into account and know that it would be nice to win the tournament, but that's really special.

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"I can't [expect] myself to win a Grand Slam at the start of the year every time."

The No. 13 seed from Japan beat American Jennifer Brady in the 2021 final Feb. 20 in Melbourne. She later withdrew from the 2021 French Open and skipped Wimbledon, citing anxiety and depression, which she indicated made worse by required tournament news conferences.

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Osaka admitted that she didn't feel "happy" after wins and felt "very sad" after losses when she appeared at a 2021 U.S. Open news conference in September in New York. She cried as she told reporters she was taking a "break" from the sport.

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On Friday, she said she uses a new perspective to address her match results and performances.

"There are days where I'm going to have bad days and days where I'm going to have great days," Osaka said. "It's always random, and I never know, but no matter what happens, I want to leave the court knowing I fought for every point.

"Today there were things I could improve on, but even with that I had two match points and that's something I can be proud of myself for."

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Anisimova edged Osaka in 11-5 in aces, 46-21 in winners and 8-0 in return winners. She used a low and quick return to keep Osaka on her toes and gain control of the match.

Osaka praised the young American for her effort and said she was "excited" for Anisimova's future. Osaka also said she plans to go to the practice court so she can work on her returns after she watched Anisimova answer her serves.

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"To me it's exciting, not the loss itself, but the person I lost to," Osaka said. "It's showing the growth of tennis. Now I'm in this position where if i lose to someone, it might make a headline, but it also grows more superstars and I feel like that's good for the game.

'It's kinda like everything is coming full circle."

Osaka said she now meditates, writes in her journal and stays off social media platforms to focus on herself. She plans to take social media apps off her phone when she leaves Melbourne.

"I'm here right now at the Australian Open, but you never know when it's going to be your last one," Osaka said. "Playing in Rod Laver [Arena] every time is something I don't want to take for granted.

"I have to shift my mentality more and be more grateful for the things I've accomplished and the things I want to accomplish."

Anisimova advanced to the fourth round, where she'll battle No. 1 Ash Barty of Australia. Osaka did not say when she plans to return to the court.

The 2022 French Open runs from May 22 through June 5 in Paris. Wimbledon 2022 runs from June 27 through July 10 in London. The 2022 U.S. Open runs from Aug. 29 through Sept. 11 in Queens.

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