Naomi Osaka has revealed why she hardly showed any emotion during her enormous Australian Open triumph over Petra Kvitova in the women's singles final.
The 21-year-old never linked her surprisingly stoic emotions to the moment her first grand slam triumph at the US Open last year was derailed by the ugly scenes of her trying to hide tears while the New York crowd shouted boos during the trophy presentation at Flushing Meadows.
Her victory at Melbourne Park finally gave her the moment she had earned last year — lifting a grand slam trophy in front of an adoring crowd. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean her emotions were in line with what you would expect from a 21-year-old grand slam champion.
There was joy — but in limited supply. There was pride — but only in limited supply.
The 2019 Australian Open women's singles champion was simply lost in her big moment — and in her state of being totally overwhelmed, she instinctively retreated into herself.
That doesn't mean there wasn't immense appreciation of the crowd, her opponent and of her own achievement. It simply means that, finally, with the world at her feet, the 21-year-old showed her age.
It was a truly bizarre trophy presentation on Rod Laver Arena and an even more bizarre post match press conference.
Even with the Daphne Akhust Trophy in sitting next to her, the superstar champion reduced herself to a tired, young woman. She was relieved more than happy.
She didn't speak glowingly about her immense fightback from the second set meltdown that threatened to define her campaign. She spoke in facts — one respectful, laboured statement at a time.
Her only real reaction came when asked about the trophy presentation, where she revealed her one big regret from the whole night.
"Yeah, I mean, I forgot to smile. I was told to smile and I didn't," she said.
"I was panicking. Yeah, I'm going to be thinking about that for the rest of today."
It didn't help that Channel 9 Australian Open host Tony Jones unwittingly rubbed it in when she conducted her first interview with the official Open broadcaster.
"There we go, we saw some teeth. Sam Smith, we are not seeing too much of a smile. I think that she is in shock," he said as Osaka took her seat in the Nine studio at Melbourne Park.
Osaka responded: ""For me I still felt like that the match was going on and I felt like I was in a state of shock throughout the entire trophy presentation.
"I am always smiling. It is definitely sinking in as time goes on."
The rest of her post-match interview was a fascinating look into the mind of a champion.
Osaka is all processes, and practice. She admits she naturally drifted into a "robotic" state after the second set meltdown — and she clearly wasn't able to get herself out of her emotionless frame of mind when it came time to face the press.
Her explanation showed exactly why she felt the need to go into her shell.
"I'm just so tired. I don't know how anyone is awake right now," she said.
"Maybe the next day I'll think about it more. But for me, I don't know, like I still feel very shocked. Like, I felt like the match wasn't completely done, but it was done, you know? It's one of those moments where you're fighting so hard. When it's finally over, you're still in the state of, like, competitiveness."
She admitted that the key to her ice-cool on-court demeanour is the result of her ability to strip herself of all emotion when she has to. It is clearly a recipe for success.
"I'm not sure if it's feeling grown up or being able to dissociate my feelings," she said when asked if she feels like she has grown up already.
"Like, you know how some people get worked up about things? That's a very human thing to do. Sometimes, I don't know, like I feel like I don't want to waste my energy doing stuff like that. I think about this on the court, too. Like in the third set of my match today, I literally just tried to turn off all my feelings. So that's why I wasn't yelling as much in the third set"
It takes her to a place where her tennis shines, but it also leaves her burned out.
"I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot sort of," she said of her mental state during her third set fightback.
"I was just executing my orders. I don't know. Like, I just did what I've been practicing my whole life in a way. I didn't waste any energy reacting too much."