Naomi Osaka says she plans to take a break from tennis following her shock third-round exit at the US Open.
Osaka, the defending champion, lost to Canadian Leylah Fernandez 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, before breaking down in tears when she spoke at her post-match media conference.
“I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do,” she told reporters.
“Honestly I don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
Playing in her first major since pulling out of the French Open earlier this year and disclosing her battle with depression, Osaka’s campaign at Flushing Meadows did not go to plan.
The third seed whacked her racquet and then flung it onto the court twice in frustration as Fernandez scored five straight points in the second-set tiebreak.
Osaka did not receive a warning or a code violation from the chair umpire, while she also left the court between the second and third sets.
She later told reporters she struggled to contain her emotions.
“I’m really sorry about that,” she said.
“I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.
“Normally I feel like I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way, and I feel like you can feel that.
“I’m not really sure why it happens the way it happens now.”
Osaka’s troubles continued as the 18-year-old Fernandez broke her serve to kick off the third set.
The two-time US Open winner hit a ball into the stands in the second game, prompting a warning from the chair umpire.
In the ninth game, Osaka rushed through her serves, not even waiting for the crowd to quiet down, as she was unable to create a single break point opportunity in the final set.
A fan favourite, Osaka has struggled with inconsistent performances since she withdrew from Roland Garros earlier this year amid a public row with tournament officials over required media appearances, which she said had a negative impact on her mental health.
She told fans she has struggled with depression for years, prompting fresh discussion about mental health in professional sport.
Fernandez achieves career highlight
It was a breakthrough performance for Fernandez, who reached the fourth round of a major for the first time just a few days shy of her 19th birthday.
She fired off 28 winners across the three sets, and said in a televised interview she worked at “just finding the solutions” during the match.
“She’s a great server, she’s been hitting aces left, right and centre,” Fernandez said of Osaka.
Fernandez said she was able to rely on her own serve, as well, as she won more than 75 per cent of her first-serve points, while also firing off six aces.
“I’ve been serving really well the past few matches,” Fernandez said.
“Today I just went on court with a lot of confidence on my serve, trusting it, trusting that I’m going to hit my targets when I needed to, and I did.”
Fernandez next faces 2016 champion Angelique Kerber of Germany.