Monday, 30th October 2017

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Osaka’s near-death experience

Naomi Osaka went out paddleboarding and was caught in a current that took her far away from the destination

By Agencies in Brisbane
  • Published 6.01.20, 5:01 AM
  • Updated 6.01.20, 5:01 AM
  • 2 mins read
Naomi Osaka in Brisbane on Sunday. (AP/PTI)

A ‘near-death’ experience off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands has given reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka a new perspective, heading into the 2020 season.

Osaka told reporters ahead of the season-opening Brisbane International that she had tried to have a bit of fun and experience new things during the off-season, which meant her “first vacation ever”.

At the insistence of her elder sister, Mari, she went out paddleboarding while visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands.

It was all great, Osaka said, until she got caught in a current.

“The current took us and I almost died,” she said. “I like to be able to see what’s about to happen to me. So we went paddle boarding next to the house. That was all fine.

“It was a beautiful day. I saw starfish. And suddenly we hit a current and I freaked out a little bit, because the house was getting further and further away. Unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, it was getting far as heck,” Osaka said.

Her sister encouraged her to just go with the flow and work back around into calmer waters further out.

“And I’m like, ‘How far out are you trying to take us?’ Because it’s black, like, the water is black now, and the house is like a tiny dot, and I can’t really swim that well,” Osaka recounted.

“And then I fell into the water and was thinking thinking about all the sharks in the Caribbean and I was like screaming at her, like, ‘If I die, this is on you. You’re going to have to tell mom how I died.”

“In that moment I just really thought, like, I don’t want to die like that.”

“I just feel like I’m experiencing so many things in my life and I’m trying to take it all into... perspective that these are things that I’ve never thought I was going to be able to do.”

Osaka, 22, burst onto the scene in 2018 when she beat Serena Williams to win the US Open, then followed that up by winning the 2019 Australian Open.

The Japanese star reached No.1 on the world rankings in 2019 and finished the year at No. 3, behind Australia’s Ash Barty and Czech Karolina Pliskova.

She said a sore shoulder meant she had not spent as much time on the court in the off-season as in previous years.