Naomi Osaka: Tokyo 2020 will mean a lot

Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during her match against Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain during the Fed Cup qualifiers in February (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during her match against Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain during the Fed Cup qualifiers in February (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The two-time Grand Slam winner spoke about the Olympics postponement, returning to the court and US Open during the TIME100 Talks: Finding Hope event on Wednesday (17 June).

In March, it was announced that for the first time in history the Olympic Games would be postponed.

Athletes across the world had mixed feelings. Some had to choose between retirement or continuing on, others push back plans or more time to recover from injuries and some simply had to wait an extra year to compete at the Olympics.

So when the Games do get underway on 23 July 2021, Japan's Naomi Osaka believes the Games will have a different significance not just to athletes but for everyone in Japan.

"I think it will mean a lot for sure," Osaka told TIME's Sean Gregory.

"I know Tokyo was really ready for it, it's unfortunate it has been pushed back a year but it's definitely for the health of everyone and everyone's peace of mind."

"I know I'm going to be very excited and other athletes are looking forward to it."

The 2019 Australian Open winner was primed to make her Olympic debut in her home country, so it will be a special moment when she steps out onto the court in the Japanese capital.

"I can only speak from my position but I've never played at an Olympics so just to have it this time in Tokyo is going to be very special."

"I think that it will go down in the history books."

Like many, Osaka has been on lockdown.

Based in the United States, the 22-year-old has tried to stay mentally sharp during this time by catching up on her reading but she has also recently returned to training.

"I think tuning up my game tennis-wise is more... just trying to get my balance back and the things I've been working on before quarantine," she said.

It's been three months since the pro tennis tour came to a halt so the world no.10 athlete is looking forward to competing on the court once it restarts.

"[What] I'm most looking forward to when tennis comes back is probably the competition. I think all athletes are really competitive and when they have nothing to compete for its a bit boring."

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Osaka has also expressed her desire to play at the US Open, set to get underway as scheduled on 31 August. However, she understands the concern of athletes taking part.

“I want to play,” she said, "Of course I understand all concerns, for me I'm also concerned. I don't know if they are really prepared for this."

“For me right now I’m definitely preparing as if it’s going to happen.”

Osaka won her maiden Grand Slam title at the event back in 2018 after defeating her hero and veteran Serena Williams in straight sets.

UNITED BY EMOTION | The Tokyo 2020 Games Motto