Naomi Osaka at the 2021 US Open
Maria Sharapova and Naomi Osaka have a lot in common. Both have topped the world rankings and are multiple Grand Slam champions. The two are also among the most popular tennis icons when it comes to fans and brands; Sharapova was the world’s highest earning female athlete for 11 years in a row, and Osaka has taken over that mantle the last couple of years.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Russian understands what Naomi Osaka is going through. In a recent interview, Sharapova shared her views on the Japanese star, describing her as “an incredible athlete and a beautiful human being”.
For context, Naomi Osaka broke down in tears during her press conference last week after losing to 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez at the US Open. Osaka even confirmed she would be taking a break from tennis for a while because she was unable to react “normally” to her results anymore.
That painful episode came right on the heels of her Roland Garros media boycott over mental health concerns. The 23-year-old subsequently withdrew from both the French Open and Wimbledon, and has played only three events in the last four months.
Maria Sharapova recently spoke in support of Naomi Osaka
Against that background, Maria Sharapova pointed out on Thursday that not many understand what a player goes through. She also asserted that athletes would perform better if they are supported more.
“We all need to be incredibly supportive of athletes who are going through tough times in their careers,” Sharapova said. “Naomi Osaka is an incredible athlete and a beautiful human being, who has a very long career ahead of her. We all need to respect the decisions that players make at times of vulnerability, when they’re feeling down or not playing their best tennis.””To be honest, not many people know what’s going on behind-the-scenes and how players feel,” the Russian added. “You only see the tennis game and what happens on the court. The more support that we can provide, the better they will be and the better that they will play.”
“There’s been such great tennis…. that’s also a great sign for the future” – Maria Sharapova on the ongoing US Open
Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open
Maria Sharapova had an incredible career that saw her win five Grand Slam titles and become the world’s most marketable female athlete. She hung up her racket in January 2020 after injuries hampered her ability to compete at the level she desired.
Since her retirement, the world at large, including the tennis circuit, has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects. While the Russian has kept herself busy with her business ventures and getting engaged to entrepreneur Alexander Gilkes, she has also been keeping an eye on the tennis at the ongoing US Open this fortnight.
Talked about the tournament, Maria Sharapova said it has been an exciting one due to the rise of players such as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. Both the teenagers are through to the women’s semifinals, and on the men’s side, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz reached the quarterfinals.
“What’s nice is it’s been a nice balance with the men and women,” Sharapova said. “Both sides of the draw are seeing so many competitive matches and clashes of the young and older generations. There’s been such great tennis. From a fan’s perspective, that’s also a great sign for the future.”