INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Naomi Osaka is enjoying an excellent run at Indian Wells. She unseated Maria Sharapova in her very first match, then cleared out the trickiest veteran Aga Radwanska and two more foes to earn a spot across from fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinal. The No. 44, 20-year-old Osaka appears to be growing into her aggressive, entertaining brand of tennis. In Tuesday’s presser she explained that she’s always played well in heat and that she finds it easiest to focus when playing against stars like Sharapova.
Talking to her, you also get the distinct sense that the soft-spoken, mellow 20-year-old is occupied by matters other than tennis. (Sometimes she explicitly tells us that she’s thinking about those mesothelioma ads.)
Hoping that Osaka might want to talk about non-tennis goings-on in her life, I asked her how she liked to decompress during the stress of the tournament. She cited a Netflix show she didn’t want to say aloud, but which must have been Everything Sucks. Other reporters helped push the conversation into shameless game- and meme-based territory, which felt like a welcome respite from the business-like self-seriousness of these conferences. I just really had to know what her Overwatch mains were, but Osaka also disclosed that she’s waiting for the next great SpongeBob meme. Below is an excerpt of the official transcript:
Q. You mentioned you haven’t had much down time at the tournament. You play and go back to the hotel. How do you decompress? Movies or books or...
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I play, like, computer games. And also I watch Netflix, but I just finished a series, so now I’m kind of stuck on what I should do.
Q. What were you watching?
NAOMI OSAKA: (Smiling).
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say the title. It’s about the kid — there is a kid, there’s another kid. It was new. It’s called Everything... If you know the title to that.
Q. What video games are keeping you occupied at the moment?
NAOMI OSAKA: It’s called EQ Worlds. It’s the most boring game ever, but if you play it with somebody, then it could be fun. But I’m just using that to keep my time occupied that I don’t get depressed that I can’t play Overwatch.
Q. Do you play on a PC?
NAOMI OSAKA: I play on at Mac.
Q. Who do you play as on Overwatch?
NAOMI OSAKA: Okay. So I don’t want to be toxic, but I play Merissa (phonetic) sim, and then Soldier. I mean, that’s not that — I can play Mercy, too. Okay. Sorry for talking.
Q. It seems like you spend a good amount of time online. I wonder if there are any memes or vines that you may be obsessed with lately that you can share with us?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, I mean, there aren’t, like, any new ones that came out, like, a day ago. Everyone already knows all the SpongeBob Patrick ones. Those are boring. They’re probably going to create a new SpongeBob one. Just waiting for that to drop, like, any second now.
Q. Did you like the Angry Patrick when it came out?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think that’s the best SpongeBob one. I think it’s either the Mr. Krabs one or the Caveman thing, because that was seriously funny.
Our Overwatch correspondent Patrick adds:
“Merissa” is almost certainly Orisa, and the “sim” after that probably refers to Symmetra. She’s got a balanced hero pool, a little something for every occasion. If we’re to deduce a common thread, it’s that she likes heroes who can build things and support their teammates with shield and turrets and shit.
Good luck on the court, and also the field of battle, Naomi.