Naomi Osaka: the valuable lesson we can all learn from the tennis star’s break announcement

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Lauren Geall
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Naomi Osaka

23-year-old tennis star Naomi Osaka has said she’s going to “take a break from playing for a while” after losing at the US Open – and her justification for taking a break can teach us all an important lesson.

Naomi Osaka has announced she is taking a break from playing tennis “for a while” following her defeat by Leylah Fernandez at the US Open.

The 23-year-old tennis star – who has been vocal about the mental health struggles she’s faced as a result of the pressure of the sport, especially over the last 12 months – declared her intention to step back during a tearful press conference after the match. And her justification for the break can teach us all a valuable lesson about how to tell when it’s time to quit. 

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“This is very hard to article. Basically, I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do,” she told reporters

“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match, sorry. I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.

“How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently, when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Naomi Osaka on court at the US open
Naomi Osaka on court earlier this week.

She continued: “I guess we’re all dealing with some stuff, but I know that I’m dealing with some stuff.” 

While it’s awful to see Osaka struggling, her decision to step back from something that’s no longer bringing her joy sets an example for us all.

Admitting that something you once loved no longer brings you happiness can be difficult – especially if you’re as talented at it as Osaka is – and it can be tempting to try to ‘work through’ or ignore problems as they arise.  

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But sometimes, stepping back from the thing that’s no longer bringing you joy – whether that’s a job, relationship or hobby – is exactly what you need to gain perspective and make a decision about how you’re going to move forward that’s right for you and your mental health.

For now, it’s not clear when we’ll see Osaka playing tennis again – but it’s great to see her putting herself first and taking the steps she needs to work through what she’s dealing with.  

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.