It makes a lot of sense at times to play things safe and while on court Naomi Osaka knows how to compensate for blowing a point and being careless. She learned the wicked lesson on her vacation at the Turks and Caicos while innocently paddle boarding with her sister out in the Caribbean.
Both thought it would be a fun thing to do since Osaka's season was filled with stress, pressure and drama of tour life despite its victories and good times. But it was never predicted that this vacation would be combined with happiness, feeling free and scary times, too.
"She made me paddleboard and then the current took us and I almost died," said the 22-year-old number four in the world tennis player. Osaka had told of her heralding situation on the WTA website and sort of with 'tongue-in-cheek' blames her sister for the near death experience.
What started off as a lovely vaction on the Islands turned out to be a frightening and shocking panorama of events that could have went the wrong way. They played it safe and decided to paddleboard near the house. It was a time quite like being on a court of a new tournament.
The skills are the same but with a new location. She flet comfortable playing around near their dwelling but experiencing a new skill was another thing. "I've never gone paddleboarding. I don't like the ocean like that..."
Osaka had said. The often smiley-faced young woman was definitely getting serious when she explained that "Suddenly we hit a current and...the house is getting further...the water is black and the house is like a tiny dot..."
She wasn't equipped to even being in the water, let alone paddleboarding because she admits in retrospect that she wasn't really a swimmer. "I can't really swim that well", she'd said and scarily looked back at the times things became shockingly scary when she lost her balance and fell into the water.
It was a panicking situation as her mind started to exaggerate as she said "Now I'm thinking about the sharks in the Caribbean and I was screaming at her. If I die, this is on you. you're going to have to tell mom how I died in the Turks and Caicos."
It was a little bit of a 'dig' her sister did by tricking her saing she saw a shark just to get Naomi more scared casing her to scream and cry around the misty Caribbean waters. It seems like in a few minutes things were going well and the episode was over and they were back on land.
It was a horrendous moment for Osaka. She had seen all the hard work for excellence in her professional tennis career dissolve and end in the Turks and Caico waters on the Caribbean Island. What must have went through Naomi's mind being in the rough current waters was surely earth shattering.
She'd known many times about taking risks on court, not feeling sure of her strategies or having a new opponent on the other side of the net. She would hang tight and have self-belief of turning uncertain situations into positive experiences that developed into victories.
It wasn't a usual occurrence of being the one with the least skill and knowledge so the paddleboarding incident might have taken Osaka out of her element. But she's indeed learned and possibly it will make her stronger and better.
She might have needed that trial to test her vulnerability at the upcoming Brisbane International tournament. This is her first event of the season and if she looks back at those few minutes on the waters she'll laugh. She'll feel now more comfortable playing her game seeing her opportunities and turning them into victories over her opponents.