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Near-death experience gives Naomi Osaka perspective

Eyes on a third Grand Slam: Naomi Osaka is top seed at the French Open

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan 5 – A “near-death” experience off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands has given reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka a new perspective heading into the 2020 season.

An upbeat Osaka told reporters ahead of the season-opening Brisbane International that she had tried to have a bit of fun and experience new things during the off-season, which meant her “first vacation ever”.

“It was really fun — my sister was there. She made me paddleboard, and then the current took us and I almost died,” a smiling Osaka said.

Osaka said she and her sister had been in shallow waters but she noticed a current had taken them away from the shore.

“I’m like, how far out are you trying to take us, because it’s black, like, the water is black now, and the house is like a tiny dot, and I can’t really swim that well,” she said.

“I just feel like I’m experiencing so many things in my life and everything’s really fun and I’m trying to take it all into… perspective that these are things that I’ve never thought I was going to be able to do.”

Osaka, 22, burst onto the scene in 2018 when she beat Serena Williams to win the US Open, then followed that up by winning the 2019 Australian Open.

The Japanese star reached number one on the world rankings in 2019 and finished the year at number three, behind Australia’s Ash Barty and Czech Karolina Pliskova.

She said a sore shoulder meant she had not spent as much time on the court in the off-season as in previous years.

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“I didn’t play for most of November, which was a first for me,” she said.

“I’ve never really taken that long of a break before. But I think it was really necessary because my shoulder was kind of worn down.

“But after that, I just did rehab and slowly started playing again and I think that that worked out really well because I don’t feel anything in my shoulder, and I like to think that I’m playing well right now.”

Osaka opens her Brisbane International campaign against world number 23 Maria Sakkari of Greece.

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