Naomi Osaka learned to tune out criticism during the 'toughest year of my life'

Naomi Osaka has learned to deal with the increased media coverage that comes with winning. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

After her win at the Australian Open a year ago, Naomi Osaka claimed the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. Since then, things haven’t gone as expected. Injuries and premature exits have held Osaka back, making 2019 the “toughest year” of Osaka’s life.

The 22-year-old Osaka said the win at the Australian Open brought increased pressure and coverage. When she lost at Wimbledon in July, Osaka said she decided to stop focusing on the outside noise, according to ESPN.

"Until Wimbledon I did," she said Saturday, referring to her first-round exit at the All England Club in July. "Then I just decided that this is what I've chosen to do, for the majority of my life. I've been training my whole life for this. I shouldn't let ... outside noise -- no offense to you guys, love you guys -- but outside noise dictate how I'm feeling."

As Osaka explained, winning the Australian Open — and at Indian Wells in 2018 — changed the way she gets covered by the media. Prior to Indian Wells, no one wrote about her losses. But Osaka’s wins raised her profile, making it newsworthy when she fell short. Paying attention to those stories has taken a toll on Osaka.

While the year hasn’t gone as expected, Osaka is still in good shape. She’s now ranked as the No. 3 singles player, and could easily get back to No. 1 with a solid showing at the Australian Open.

Osaka’s first match at the tournament will take place Monday. She’ll face Marie Bouzková.

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