Naomi Osaka at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka is back at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time since 2019 and she's loving the positive energy and overall atmosphere at the WTA 1000 event. On Wednesday, the 2018 BNP Paribas Open champion opened up about how she's feeling before kicking off her first tournament since the Australian Open, her mindset and finding peace on the court.

"I don't really live in the past anymore, I feel like that's kind of tough for me because I'm a perfectionist," Osaka said during her presser. "So there's always that doubt in my head, will I ever to play like this or this?

"But the players that I'm playing against are changing and I feel like everyone's improving, and I can't necessarily say that I digressed as a player. I think there's things I've gotten much better at. I think life is a constant evolution."

Not only is her mindset evolving, but she's also noticed a major change with Indian Wells fans in 2022 and it's been a special experience thus far. A weight has been lifted and expectations have been traded with just having a good time and enjoying the process. It's a stark contrast from last year's US Open.


"Honestly, I feel like I'm at peace with myself, which I think is a great feeling to have as a person.

"I'm really grateful because I was watching qualifying the other day here and was walking around and usually when I walk around, people are like 'win the tournament, I have tickets to the final' kind of thing," Osaka explained. "And, actually people were just saying, 'I hope you have fun.' I know that's not the biggest difference, but it really meant a lot to me."

The four-time major winner's "staying in the moment" mindset seems to be providing her a sense of freedom when stepping onto the court. The score is no longer top of mind, but rather just playing her game without applying unnecessary pressure. Only having played a handful of events last season, Osaka has fallen to No. 78 in the rankings.

She will face an on-fire Sloane Stephens in her opening round. The two haven't squared off since 2018, but the American holds a 2-0 head-to-head lead and comes into the tournament having won Guadalajara's 250.

"It's always hard to go to a tournament you've done well at and not have good memories, but I think I'm at a completely different space in my life right now and I'm just focusing on my first round which is quite difficult," she said. "I'm going to have to put a lot of energy into that, I think just take it one match at a time."