"I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional," Naomi Osaka had explained when she chose to give up her United States citizenship for Japan when the Tokyo Olympics arrived.
There was great controversy on her giving it up with some asking 'why would she denounce her country?' Others went about and shook their heads in unexplained disagreement; many made light of the fact but wondered how she'd be treated afterwards when she returned back to her home in Boca Raton, Florida.
She stuck to her desire and said also that "It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan." But looking at the history of Osaka in a Japanese environment created pride as well as anxiety long ago when she wasn't fluent in Japanese, her mother's nationality or Creole of her Haitian Dad.
The media was a bit harsh on the rising star then and she took the heat in stride. Last year's Australian Open her win over Petra Kvitova was acknowledged by an interview on Japanese TV live from Melbourne where a media reporter asked of her to speak in Japanese on her feelings of the victory.
"I'm going to say it in English," she firmly replied and after a while the interview and pressure had ended. Japan or the US doesn't permit dual citizenship at the Olympics and Japan was Osaka's definite decision.
The coronavirus has eliminated, suspended and cancelled many events with the Tokyo Olympics being the most significant and elaborae. The heat over Naomi Osaka to perform under the watchful eyes of her Japanese counterparts and heritage persons has cooled for now.
She can remember when her result was very positive when she'd win the 2019 Japan Open in September. It was her first title in Japan at the Toray Pan Pacific defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets. It was in winning the Pan Pacific that gave her the courage and determination to go out for winning in Tokyo when the Olympics would arrive, but it never will now.
The current situation stands as to when the virus will stop its spread and things as well as the tennis community and tournaments will resume. She had commented that being in the house all day is tiresome and boring. There's so much rest a player can get when they're not playing a tournament.
Osaka and all are becoming frustrated on not knowing when and if tournaments will be started up. This season hasn't been victorious for the young Japanese either as she started out at the Brisbane International going deep into the semifinal but to bow in three sets to Karolina Pliskova.
The Australian Open was another shocker losing in straight sets to Cori Gauff in the third round. "It's hard because you learn more when you lose. The winner doesn't really learn that much. I feel like I wasn't really swinging freely and she was.
I just felt tight because playing here, the defending thing...and I played her before. It's so much hype going into the match..." Osaka had said rather disgustedly. But the hiatus has relaxed players in general to regroup, practice and bring their games to a point of control and success.
Time is the issue and no one knows yet the exact date or tournament the tour will resume. Here's hoping it is soon that players can put into action what they've been practicing on the court for far too long.