Naomi Osaka On Finding Her Voice In Quarantine And Self-Care On And Off Of The Tennis Court

What does it take to be a global tennis star? For Naomi Osaka, it requires intense training, a clean diet, a strong-willed state of mind, and BODYARMOR. The 23-year-old has a partnership with the popular sports drink company, and she is one of the athletes featured in their new star-studded “One More” campaign ad. Hydrating with the help of the line of drinks keeps her ready for anything that comes her ways on the court, which allows her to take her game further, be a four-time Grand Slam title winner, and a top competitor in her sport.

But what is the life of a global tennis star off of the court? For Osaka, it’s moments with family and friends and making time to decompress in simple, fulfilling ways. Osaka let ESSENCE in on the small things behind the scenes that bring her great joy, from green tea ice cream to Japanese graphic novels, what self-care means to her, and how she found her voice in the quiet of quarantine last year.

ESSENCE: In the ad campaign for BODYARMOR that you star in, the idea is being able to push yourself further, with help from the drink, of course. In key moments when you’re on the court competing, what keeps you not only physically going but mentally as well? 

Naomi Osaka: Physically, I go into matches with trust in my training, coaching, hydration (thanks to BODYARMOR), and nutrition. But mentally, key moments are usually high-pressure situations, so I try to calm my mind, focus on the game plan, and let myself execute and play freely.

It’s great to be able to push yourself in training, as in the commercial, and during your many tournaments. But what’s your favorite form of self-care/me-time activity to decompress when you’re off the court? 

Now that my sister is in Los Angeles with me, I really look forward to just relaxing with her and watching Manga or talking about fashion and sketching. Since so much of my tennis life is on the go, having time to just unwind is important. I also make self-care a priority on the court – for me this means making sure I stay properly hydrated with BODYARMOR and protect my skin from harmful rays by using a sunscreen daily.

In the vein of the commercial’s theme of “one more,” a few playful questions for you:  

  • What’s a food you don’t often get to indulge in that you’d love one more serving of?
    • I think I would eat more green tea ice cream. Especially now that it’s getting hot in Los Angeles, ice cream sounds really good to me at the end of the day.
    • Quarantine let me explore my love of Netflix and watch some great documentaries. I also binge-watched Blacklist. I was here for the drama.
    • I went to Turks and Caicos with my sister and some friends at the end of 2019, and it was a lot of fun. I also always welcome anytime I can explore and enjoy Japan.

    How has it been as an introvert doing what you love on the world stage and having to always do post-game interviews and press conferences and just be more vocal in general? As you come out of your shell more and more, is that something you’re enjoying? 

    I think my younger self may have said “I’m shy” when really it was more about having something important to say.  I’ve grown up a lot in the past year and a half and I think the time to reflect and time in quarantine allowed me to find my voice during a very tough time for the world. So, with that said, I’m very proud that I know myself and the value of my words. 

    After using your platform to protest police violence against Black people as a Black woman during the US Open, how did you feel about the outcome in the case against the officer who murdered George Floyd? Why is it important for athletes to be vocal on these matters as you unapologetically were? 

    I am happy with the outcome of the trial, and that George Floyd’s family and loved ones hopefully have found a little bit of peace. However, it’s very sad to think about it, knowing George Floyd should still be here with us today. I think I’ve said this before, but I encourage anyone who has a platform; athlete or not, to spread awareness on social change and speak their truth.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=7JJLpD-NHUs%3Ffeature%3Doembed
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