MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Naomi Osaka was at peace with herself after yet another failed attempt at defending a Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and the former world number one was especially proud of the way she has managed to mould her mindset to deal with tough losses.
The former world number one crashed out from Melbourne Park after a third round loss in the deciding set tiebreaker to American Amanda Anisimova -- the same stage the four-times major winner exited the U.S. Open four months back.
Following the Flushing Meadows defeat, a tearful Osaka told a news conference that she was taking a break from the sport, raising more concern about her mental health struggles that forced her to miss parts of the tennis season.
The soft spoken and self-confessed introvert declared at the start of the 2022 season that she was looking to have more fun on court and enjoy playing the sport.
"I would definitely say I'm proud of myself for this," the Japanese player told reporters on Friday. "Though to me it didn't feel like a short amount of time. It felt like ages ago.
"This for me is the biggest step. Even though I lost. I was really focused throughout the entire match, and I didn't have a dip. So that's really good. Hopefully as the season continues, I'll be able to keep this up, and get even better at it."
It was the fourth time that Osaka had failed to defend a Grand Slam title but on Friday she held two matchpoints against the American - something that also made her proud.
Osaka felt her defeat by 60th-ranked Anisimova showed the depth of women's tennis.
"I fought for every point. I can't be sad about that," Osaka said, adding that she was yet to decide on her schedule before the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells in March.
"I'm not God! I can't win every match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude.
"Of course I lost, but I'm happy with how it went. I just want to go into this year knowing that I'll play the whole year and I'll just have the greatest attitude ever."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Christian Radnedge)