Going into the French Open in late May, Osaka — who is ranked No. 2 — announced she wouldn't speak to reporters at the tournament, saying those interactions create doubts for her.
Then, after her first-round victory, she skipped the mandatory news conference.
Osaka was fined $15,000 and — surprisingly — publicly reprimanded by those in charge of Grand Slam tournaments, who said she could be suspended if she kept avoiding the media.
The next day, Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros entirely to take a mental health break, revealing she has dealt with depression.
She sat out Wimbledon, too. So the Tokyo Games mark her return to competition.
"The Olympics are a special time, when the world comes together to celebrate sports. I am looking forward most to being with the athletes that had waited and trained for over 10 years, for celebrating a very hard year (2020) and having that happen in Japan makes it that much more special," Osaka wrote in an email interview when she was selected as the
https://apnews.com/article/police-health-osaka-ahmaud-arbery-police-brutality-595092ee32188137d13ad919eaa4e358. "It's a special and beautiful country filled with culture, history and beauty. I cannot be more excited."
There was a big hint that Osaka might have an important role in the ceremony when her opening match in the Olympic tennis tournament was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday without an explanation earlier in the day.
She was originally scheduled to play 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China in the very first match of the Games on center court Saturday morning. But clearly by lighting the flame as midnight approached, she wouldn't have had enough rest for an early morning match.
Osaka became the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron. She's also one of the few active athletes to be given the honor. Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman lit the cauldron for the 2000 Sydney Games and went on to win gold in the 400 meters.
Osaka — along with top-ranked Ash Barty — is a favorite to win the women's singles title in a tennis tournament that also features Novak Djokovic aiming to become the first man to win a Golden Slam by holding all four Grand Slam trophies and Olympic gold in the same year.