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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 9, 2022


"Honestly I feel I’m at peace with myself which I think is a really good feeling to have as a person," Naomi Osaka told the media in Indian Wells today. 

Photo credit: BNP Paribas Open Facebook

Naomi Osaka savors the snarl of the Sunshine Double.

Dog-lover Osaka views the Indian Wells-Miami swing as tennis' true dog days.

Serena: I'd Probably be Jailed for Zverev Tirade

"I think for me Indian Wells and Miami is sort of a refreshing period. I also consider it a dog haven," Osaka told the media in Indian Wells today. "I remember seeing Venus and Wozniacki’s dogs always running around and I always found that quite cute."

Returning to the BNP Paribas Open for the first time in three years, Osaka brought her dog Butta to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the first time.

"So I wanted to bring Butta out here cuz I wasn’t sure he was going to enjoy it and he does a lot," Osaka said. "This is a very special time in the tennis calendar. No one can complain about it."

The 2018 Indian Wells champion will need to bring big competitive bite from the first ball in her desert return.

Two-time US Open champion Osaka faces 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in a blockbuster first-round clash in the desert.

Stephens is fresh off winning her seventh career title in Acapulco last month, while Former No. 1 Osaka is playing just her third tournament since losing to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open last summer.

The 38th-ranked Stephens is 40 spots higher than Osaka in the WTA rankings and won their only two prior meetings, though Osaka herself seemed to only recall their first meeting at the 2016 Acapulco when she concedes she felt intimidated facing the American.

"I remember being very intimidated," Osaka said of Stephens. "It’s really cool to kind of grow up together on Tour. I know she is a little older than me, but just to have seen her win the Grand Slam and then just kind of develop over the years is really nice and she kind of grew up around the same area as me plus she’s a fantastic player."

Tennis Express

In addition to magical memories of winning her maiden WTA title at the 2018 Indian Wells, Osaka says she feels at peace after a turbulent 2021 season where she raised mental wellness as a key issue in the sport.

The four-time Grand Slam champion has felt the love and support from fans: Osaka said she's grateful to Indian Wells fans urging her to "have fun" as she walks the grounds of the Tennis Garden.

"Honestly I feel I’m at peace with myself which I think is a really good feeling to have as a person," Osaka said. "I’m like really grateful because I was watching qualies here the other day.

"I was walking around and usually when I walk around people are like 'win the tournament' or 'I have tickets to the finals I hope I see you there.' [This time] everyone was just saying like 'I hope you have fun.'  I know that’s not the biggest difference, but it really meant a lot to me."


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