Insiders relish the charming, endearing and whimsical humor of Japan’s (well, she’s as American as you can get) Naomi Osaka, the most innocent player in tennis. Here’s a fun sampler from her most recent press conference in Melbourne.
Q. Next up is Halep…She had a long one today. Kicked you off your court.
NO: I was sweating more watching that match than I was with my match (smiling).
Q. How did you pick Sascha [Bajin, Serena Williams’ former hitting partner] as your coach?
NO: Okay, so the first time we practiced, I just was, like, ‘Oh, I’m nervous.’ He’s, like, with Serena for such a long time. I really like Serena. So I’m like, oh. Then we practiced. He twisted his ankle, so we couldn’t really do much.
But, he’s really positive. He’s been on tour for a super long time, so he knows what he’s doing. Our personalities match.
Q. Did he twist his ankle while he was hitting with you?
Q. Did you drop shot him or something?
NO: No. He was running like this, and then I hit here, then he was like, then he fell because he’s really big. Yeah, then I thought he was joking, because he had the ankle guards on. He just turned really red (smiling). It turned out he, like, tore his ligament…
Q. You were responsible for tearing his ligament, and you aced Roger [Federer in the Hopman Cup]. What is it with you [against] really good [male] players?
NO: Well, Sascha is going to take that as a compliment if you’re saying he’s as good as Roger…I feel like the way that I am, I want to play tennis to play the better players, but I don’t consider Sascha one of them (smiling).
But, yeah, the only thing I wanted to do during the mixed doubles was ace [Roger]. That was my only goal. I didn’t care if we got bageled or anything. So I’m really glad I was able to do that.
Q. You said you and Sascha’s personalities are a good match.
NO: He’s crazy. He’s really sarcastic. He’s one of the few people that gets my jokes now. In the beginning he was really, like, ‘Whoa.’ But now he gets it. We have a banter going on.
Q. How would you define your humor?
NO: Ha-ha-ha…You have to use your brain to get it. But I think it’s also, like, sarcastic-y, like out of nowhere, like: ‘Boom.’
Q. How is it sarcastic-y?
N: ‘Cause it just is. It’s, like, out, ‘Bam,’ in front of you. You have to be like, ‘Did she really just say that?’
Q. Is this the opposite of your tennis? Your tennis is pretty clear.
NA: Is it?
NO: Would you describe it to me?
Q. Yes, I will…It’s very forceful, assertive.
NA: Thank you. I hope that’s a compliment.
Q. Who on the circuit gets your humor the most?
NO: So Monica [Puig] is getting it a little bit. I think she is. I hope she is because, honestly, if I say something that messes, like, that friendship up, I’m going to be a little bit sad…I don’t really talk to people, so she’s like one of the few friends I have. Because outspoken people I’m good with because I don’t really have to say much. If it’s like we both have to talk, then I’m kind of scared.