Naomi Osaka has joked that a “near-death” paddle boarding experience taught her a valuable lesson as the Australian Open champion prepares her defence in Brisbane this week.
A popular winner at Melbourne Park last year, Osaka returns to Australia for the Brisbane International as world No.3 in a field that also include’s Australia’s world No.1 Ashleigh Barty.
But the Japanese talent revealed she almost didn’t make it after her sister led her astray during some rare Caribbean downtime in November.
“We went paddle-boarding next to the house; that was all fine, it was a beautiful day, I saw starfish,” Osaka said.
“And suddenly we hit a current and I’m freaking out a little bit, because the house is getting far as heck, and then she was all like, ‘Oh, just let the current take you out and we can just go around it later’.
On vacation in the Turks and Caicos, @naomiosaka “nearly died” while paddle boarding. 🦈
— #BrisbaneTennis (@BrisbaneTennis) January 5, 2020
“The water is black and the house is like a tiny dot, and I can’t really swim that well and then I fall in the water.
“(I told my sister) you’re going to have to tell mum how I died in the Turks and Caicos.”
She said her sister then joked there was a shark in the water, telling reporters she had learnt a lesson despite enjoying the chance to “experience so many new things”.
“You can’t trust your siblings … you’ve got to protect yourself,” she said. “Because it’s a cold world out there. It’s a cold world out there.”
Osaka will begin 2020 under new coach Wim Fissette after an up-and-down season that also included a shoulder niggle.
She will play Greek world No.23 Maria Sakkari in the first round on Tuesday in Brisbane.
“Sakkari’s a good fighter and she brings a lot of energy on to the court, so for that to be my first round match here is going to be really fun regardless of the outcome,” Osaka said.
“Despite it being very difficult, this is actually a really good draw for me because it tests my endurance and also my ability of like figuring things out.”