‘How could you?’: Journo turns on Osaka
Naomi Osaka has shown moments of invincibility on her way to the final of the Australian Open, but she let the world in on a sore spot she's always carried in her post-match press conference.
Still beaming after qualifying for her first Australian Open final, the 21-year-old let her guard down in a lighthearted press conference on Thursday evening - but she would come to regret her easygoing nature when one reporter suddenly turned on her.
Osaka is through to Saturday night's final where she will face off with Czech power-hitter Petra Kvitova when the two stars will go head to head for the No. 1 ranking.
It was her incredible journey from inconsistent teenager to potentially Japan's first ever man or woman to snatch the No. 1 honour that brought about her discomfort in her press conference.
Osaka mentioned briefly about how she felt for a long period after first emerging on the WTA Tour that she was unable to push through a ceiling to reach the second week of grand slam tournaments and to reach the late rounds of big tournaments.
She admitted she still has a chip on her shoulder about receiving questions at the time - as recent as 12 months ago - about her failure to push past the first three rounds in grand slams.
It was only at the 2018 Australian Open that she reached the last 16 at a major for the first time.
After more than two years of failing to crack the second week, she was simply sick of hearing about it in her post-match interviews.
It's why one reporter's wisecrack on Thursday brought her undone with a cheeky, wounded reaction.
She was asked if, even for incredible success at just 21 years of age, if it has felt like it has been a long road for her to establish herself, despite her grand slam success after a couple years on the WTA Tour not being "normal".
"Man, for me it feels like it took a while," she said.
"Like, I've always wanted to get to the second week. I only did that last year for the first time here. It definitely means a lot that I've gotten to the final here, of course.
"Definitely I remember all the matches that I lost in the third round. Especially since after you guys are so nice to me and you ask me, 'How does it feel to always be stuck in the third round?' Yeah, that definitely makes me feel a lot better."
The bold reporter seized his moment and struck.
"How did it feel to be stuck in the third round," he asked.
Osaka was mock-horrified.
"How could you," she said as a huge grin began to break through her stern expression. "It felt great.
"I've been in the third round. I was stuck there for two years. As soon as I could break away from that, now I'm here again, I think it's just experience and a confidence issue for me it's always felt like."
Her quick-witted response was just the latest in a series of hilarious moments where Osaka has sparred with the press.
After her quarter-final win on Wednesday she shut down her post-match, on-court interview with Channel 9.
"Sorry, I know it's going to be tough no matter who I play, but I'm just trying to go inside because it's a little bit hot right now," a distracted Osaka said.
When asked if she wanted to end the interview she said: "Yeah, I'm sorry".
She also got the crowd giggling on Rod Laver Arena after her tough win over Karolina Pliskova earlier on Thursday.
As she so often does, Osaka had the crowd in stitches with her on-court interview that discussed her second serves, thoughts on the roof being closed and her post-match routine.
"I was expecting a really hard battle. I told myself to regroup in the third set and no matter what just try as hard as I can, and I managed to win," Osaka said.
"I was so scared on those second serves. I was like, 'Oh God, please!'
"I like the heat so I was kind of sad about that (the roof being shut).
"They had the roof open (earlier) and I was like, 'Oh, it's my time to shine.'
"I'm gonna go to sleep. And then maybe after that I might walk but probably not to be honest."
It's not hard to see why she has quickly become one of the most popular players in tennis right now.