NEW YORK – Naomi Osaka looked at her agent and said she wanted to tell the world what they had been discussing privately in a hallway at Arthur Ashe Stadium after her US Open title defense ended with a throw of racket, a lack of composure, lead -defeat evaporated in the third round.

His response: “Of course.

And then Osaka, stopping every now and then as her voice trapped in her words and her eyes filled with tears, said Friday night that she was considering taking another break from tennis “for a while.”

“I feel like myself, recently when I win I don’t feel happy, I feel more like relief. And then when I lose I feel very sad,” Osaka said at his talk. press after a 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss at Flushing Meadows to Leylah Fernandez, an 18-year-old Canadian who is ranked 73rd and has never been this far in Grand Slam competition. “I don’t think this is normal.”

“I feel like myself, recently when I win I don’t feel happy, I feel more like relief. And then when I lose I feel very sad.”

– Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka of Japan covers her head between matches against Leylah Fernandez of Canada in the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City.  (Associated press)

Naomi Osaka of Japan covers her head between matches against Leylah Fernandez of Canada in the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City. (Associated press)

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The host in charge of the session with reporters tried to cut it short, but Osaka said she wanted to continue.

“It’s very difficult to articulate,” she said, resting her left cheek in his hand. “Basically I feel like I’m at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and honestly, I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.”

Crying, she lowered her black visor over her eyes and apologized, then patted her palms on both cheeks.

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“Yeah,” Osaka added as she got up to leave, “I think I’ll take a break from my game for a while.”

“Honestly, I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.… I think I’ll take a break for a while.”

– Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Leylah Fernandez of Canada during the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City.  (Associated press)

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot to Leylah Fernandez of Canada during the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City. (Associated press)

It was the first Slam tournament for Osaka, 23, since she pulled out of Roland Garros ahead of the second round to take a mental health break after announcing she would not attend press conferences in Paris.

She also attended Wimbledon, before competing in the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron as one of Japan’s most famous athletes.

Osaka holds four Grand Slam titles, including at the US Open in 2018 – beating Serena Williams in a chaotic final – and a year ago, plus two more on the hard courts of the Australian Open. When she took a break after Roland Garros, she revealed that she endures waves of anxiety before meeting the media and that she has suffered from depression for three years.

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Over the past week, Osaka wrote on social media and shared her thoughts on the importance of self-confidence and how she wants to ignore the expectations of others.

The first sign on Friday that things were not quite right with Osaka came when she slammed her racquet against the field after dropping a point. Moments later, Osaka threw away his equipment, sending it bouncing and skidding halfway towards the net. Then came a full peak near the baseline.

Subsequently, she compared this behavior to behavior “a bit like a little child”.

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“I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like there might have been a boiling point,” Osaka said. “Like, normally I feel like I like a challenge. But lately I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way, and I feel like you can feel it.”

His game was off. His playing face was gone. In the end, the crowd booed her for turning their backs on the pitch and taking too long between points.

Soon the No.3 seed Osaka was out of the range.

This day had that kind of vibe: Earlier in Ashe, another 18-year-old new to this territory surprisingly knocked out a No.3 seed when Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz beat Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 0-6, 7-6 (5) to become the youngest man in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows since Michael Chang and Pete Sampras in 1989.

Osaka arrived with a 16-game winning streak in major tournaments. Still, Fernandez said: “Right before the game I knew I was capable of winning.”

For Osaka, maybe the time away from top-level competition was a problem.

Another possible factor in her failure to close matters as she served for the victory over southpaw Fernandez at 6-5 in the second set: Osaka hadn’t played a game since Monday. The usual rhythm of the Slam holidays was disrupted as the woman Osaka was supposed to meet in the second round, Olga Danilovic, stepped down due to illness.

“I’ve never had a Grand Slam forfeit so it was really a really weird feeling,” Osaka said.

On Friday, Osaka was pretty good in the last set in the first set. She grabbed 12 of 13 points, including the last nine, with a love break to go up 6-5, and a love grab with the help of a pair of aces at 112 mph and 114 mph to end it.

Seemed on track for a similar conclusion in the second set, leading 6-5 and serving. But when Osaka pulled off a wide forehand, Fernandez had his first break of the game to make it 6-all.

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“Finally, I found a model for his service,” Fernandez said. “I just trusted my instincts and hit the ball.”

“I just trusted my instincts and hit the ball.”

– Leylah Fernandez

Leylah Fernandez of Canada returns a shot to Naomi Osaka of Japan during the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City.  (Associated press)

Leylah Fernandez of Canada returns a shot to Naomi Osaka of Japan during the third round of the US Open tennis championships on Friday, September 3, 2021, in New York City. (Associated press)

And so began the downward spiral of Osaka. She fell behind 5-0 in the ensuing tie-breaker, missing shots and displaying her frustration as she has sometimes done in the past – throwing her racquet.

Chair umpire Alison Hughes did not sanction Osaka at that time, although a warning was issued later for hitting a ball in the stands.

“I wasn’t really focused on Naomi,” Fernandez said. “I was only focused on myself, my game, what I had to do.”

Specifically, Osaka was not at its best. She left the court with a white towel draped over her head after the second set, then sat in her changing chair in the same way to block the world.

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Fernandez, smiling and holding his fist straight above his head after the biggest of the points, certainly had something to do with the result.

She won 18 of 19 first serve points – and has never faced a breaking point – in the third set.

Fernandez’s quick comeback style at the baseline is reminiscent of another southpaw, Angelique Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam champion who won the 2016 US Open.

And who just happens to be Fernandez’s next opponent.

“I’m going to do a show like I did tonight,” Fernandez said, “and we’ll see how it goes.”