Naomi Osaka’s personal struggles with depression and social anxiety have been well documented ever since the two-time U.S. Open champion withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon earlier this year to protect “her chicken and her mentals,” as Marshawn Lynch so eloquently stated.
After a tumultuous couple of months which included an upset loss at the Olympics, Osaka walked into her familiar stomping grounds — Arthur Ashe Stadium — with a 16-match winning streak at majors and four career trophies, all on hard courts.
On Friday, Osaka suffered a stunning defeat, losing 5-7, 7-6, 6-4 to an unheralded 18-year-old named Leylah Fernandez.
The loss seemed to shock Osaka as much as anybody.
There was great optimism that Osaka would rebound and advance very deep in her first Grand Slam since divulging her struggles with mental health. Millions of fans across the globe were pulling for her.
The defending US Open champion was also returning to the scene of her first majors win — an epic battle against Serena Williams in 2018.
It was the signature win that elevated Osaka to superstardom.
Many believed that a return to Flushing was what Osaka needed to get back into gear.
After all, she is the defending champion and seemed to be in good spirits, recently visiting a local park in Queens to greet some inner-city kids and share her love of tennis with them.
Osaka took the first set and then the usually calm-mannered champion lost her composure, repeatedly giving up points and committing unforced errors.
Once her uncharacteristically poor play reached code red levels, Osaka slammed her racket on the ground and went to Paul O’Neil after a strikeout on everyone.
Victory wasn’t in the cards. To read the complete article, click here.