Naomi Osaka is still adjusting to the fame which comes with winning two Grand Slam titles, so much so she struggles to hold a conversation with her biggest idol Serena Williams.
Osaka’s first major tournament win came in that controversial 2018 US Open final in which Williams threw a tantrum in defeat.
The pair have had no issues with each other since then and have crossed paths on many occasions.
Williams’ gripe was with umpire Carlos Ramos, who she labelled a “liar” and a “thief” for handing her three code violations.
However, Japanese star Osaka still struggles to find the confidence to talk to the 23-time Grand Slam winner.
“Okay, so I’m going to have to give you a briefing of how I am as a person,” Osaka said at the Australian Open. “I don’t talk to people. I just stare at them from a distance. That’s lesson number one.
Naomi Osaka has explained why she does not speak to Serena Williams
“Lesson number two is that if I were to talk to Serena, she talks to me, and I get surprised that she talks to me and that I don’t talk back.
“I just say, ‘Hi. How are you?’
“I’m trying really hard to get up the courage, because for me it’s very odd.
“Like, she’s the one that I admired to start playing, and then the whole US Open thing, whatever, and she’s still so nice to me.
“I just – it’s weird, like, tennis players, we have to play each other, we’re super competitive, but then off the court we see each other every week.”
Osaka was reminded of a photo of her sat besides Williams and Rafael Nadal – another surreal moment for the world No 4.
“I’m thinking, Oh, my God. Because Nadal was right next to me too, right?” Osaka explained.
The 22-year-old was asked if she felt just as star struck being sat next to the Spaniard.
She replied: “Yeah, are you kidding me?”
Naomi Osaka is the defending Australian Open champion
And what about fellow tennis greats Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki?
“Well, like, it’s the best players in the world. What are you talking about?” Osaka said.
Osaka gets her title campaign underway when she opens Monday’s play on Rod Laver Arena against Marie Bouzkova.
And she instantly remembered her 2019 triumph when stepping onto centre court to practice ahead of the first-round tie.
“I’ve actually only practiced on Rod Laver once. But, yeah, it was really cool. I just immediately had flashbacks of I guess last year,” she said. Yeah, I’m just super happy to be back here. Hopefully I can play well.”