Naomi Osaka during a press conference at the US Open in August 2019 in New York City
Even though Naomi Osaka has stayed away from the tennis spotlight over the past few weeks, fans of the four-time Grand Slam champion have gained an insight into her life through a recent Netflix docuseries.
Last weekend, Netflix released “Naomi Osaka” – a three-episode miniseries directed by filmmaker Garrett Bradley. The series sheds light on Osaka’s life over the past two years, including her role in the Black Lives Matter movement and Grand Slam victories at the 2020 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bradley, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, has spoken about her experience working with Osaka, as well as the Japanese’s press conference struggles.
Osaka caused a storm last month when she announced she would not take part in mandatory press conferences at the French Open, citing mental health concerns.
After being severely criticized for her move, fined $15,000 by the French Tennis Federation, and warned of further consequences, the 23-year-old withdrew from the tournament. Since then, Osaka has not played a single match and has made only one public appearance – at the ESPY Awards earlier this month.
Bradley said she could empathize with what Osaka was going through in press conferences after being a first-hand witness to her struggles.
“When I was sitting in those rooms with her filming the press themselves, I could completely empathize with what she was going through, ” Bradley said. But I also thought that she has always been very strong in those circumstances. When she does speak, she’s incredibly clear and incredibly to the point. “She speaks profoundly with fewer words than most of us are able to. I think anxiety is something she has identified for herself in the past few weeks. … I’m not sure she would have articulated it as anxiety at that moment. It takes time to get to that place. And it also takes time to build strength and decide how to use your voice.”
“Naomi Osaka is an incredible leader of her generation” – Garrett Bradley
Naomi Osaka at the 2020 US Open
Despite being considered among the most influential figures in tennis, Naomi Osaka still has a reputation for being shy and soft-spoken.
However, Bradley dismissed those notions, claiming Osaka is “an incredible leader of her generation” who chooses how and when she wants to use her voice.
“I think we have different perceptions and a different set of projections that we put on women — and Black women — in the public sphere,” Bradley added. “She is an incredible leader of her generation in that she is really choosing how and when she wants to use her voice. I think that’s a sign of power, more than vulnerability. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have anything to say, or that she doesn’t ever smile. It means she’s choosing when she wants to,”
Osaka will return to action at the Tokyo Olympics which gets underway later this week. The World No. 2 will be looking to become only the second woman to win singles gold in her home country (after Lindsay Davenport at the 1996 Atlanta Games) since tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988.