Last weekend, 21-year-old Naomi Osaka became the world’s No. 1 women’s singles tennis player after winning her second consecutive Grand Slam title (U.S Open last fall, Australian Open last week).
It was inspiring work. Effort. Focus. Resilience. Beautiful.
She won the first set in a tiebreaker and lost the second set after being up 5-3, 40 - 0. If tennis isn’t your thing, this means she edged out her opponent in the first set of games and then lost her second set after being way out in front; needing to win only 1 more point of the next three to win the match … a gut sickening failure for her and an inspiring reminder (for all of us) from her opponent that every point of a match stands on its own and doesn’t have to carry into the next.
At that point, Osaka left the court for a bathroom break and mentally regrouped before the final set.
“I just thought to myself that this is my second time playing a final. I can’t really act entitled. Like, to be playing one of the best players in the world and to lose a set and suddenly think I’m so much better than her ... that that isn’t a possibility.”
Objectivity. Dismissal of entitlement. Mmmmm.
Mind settled, she returned to the court, took the third set and match, and earned $1.45 million more than the runner-up (Petra Kvitova). Over the 2.5-hour match, Osaka won 116 points to Kvitova’s 112. ( So two-twelve.)
One reporter, impressed with her consecutive Grand Slam wins at such a young age, asked “Do you feel like a grown-up?”
Osaka responded, “I’m not sure if it’s feeling grown up or being able to disassociate my feelings. Like, you know how some people get worked up about things? And, that’s a very human thing to do. Sometimes, I don't know, like, I feel like I don’t want to waste my energy doing stuff like that. Like, I think about this on the court, too. Like, in the third set of my match today, I literally just tried to turn off all my feelings. So that’s why I wasn’t yelling as much in the third set. I'm not sure that makes me grown up. I don't think so.”
I do. It’s admirable for sure.
Another reporter followed, “Can you express what that was like in the third set inside your own thoughts?”
“I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot sort of. I was just executing my orders, like I just did what I’ve been practicing my whole life in a way and I didn’t waste any energy reacting too much.”
How wonderful. Not the hollow robot thought (although playing tennis myself, I understand), but the reminder that reaction is often wasted energy … drama unneeded.
How much more could all of us enjoy (create) without the drama we give and take? I believe we’d find ourselves in an exponentially wonderful place.
Allow Naomi Osaka’s example (this 21-year-old world champion) to inspire you to better practice your ability to stay focused on what matters most and to lose less time to what doesn’t.
Another short lesson for me below.
A little more…
Osaka isn’t a fan of public speaking. At one point in her press conference, she was asked if there was anything else she wished she'd said during the trophy presentation.
“I forgot to smile. I was told to smile and I didn’t.”
She later commented, “So of course I would love to be better at talking but in the first place, I don’t even talk normally. Like in my day-to-day I might speak like 10 sentences.”
For me, her overuse of the word ‘like’ and her difficulty talking with people and smiling was a little deflating. ( I’m the Smile & Move guy.) But, she’s very young. She hasn’t had a lot of time to hone those skills. She’s been busy becoming one of the best tennis players in the world.
Another reminder for me … results are what’s most important.
Header Photo by Peter Menzel / CC BY-SA 2.0
Osaka sharing a little love for the people who helped get her there.
Wouldn’t have been able to do it without everyone. Love you guys ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/qxdbctduUe— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) January 27, 2019