Four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka admits there's "chaos" in her head holding her back from rediscovering huge potential.
The 24-year-old Japanese superstar crashed out of the US Open in a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 first-round loss to American No.19 seed Danielle Collins.
It's the third consecutive major where Osaka has lost in the first round. Within that run, she also failed to win a set at Roland-Garros in May.
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Her form is a far cry from the player that won the US Open in 2018 and 2020, and the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021.
Granted she has been hampered by a back injury in recent months, which cruelled her preparation for this tournament.
"I just wanted to play without my back being in pain, because it's sort of been bad for the entire hardcourt season since Toronto," Osaka said in her press conference after losing to Collins.
"I didn't (practice my) serve until two days ago, so I was really happy with how my serve went. But this is what makes you great, being able to win matches like this even if it's in the first round.
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"I feel like everyone deals with injuries. For me it's been more prominent this year, but I learnt a lot more about my body – what's weak and what I can do to prevent it.
"The sport is very physical, but it's my job to stay on top of it."
Tennis is physical, but it's also mental, too.
The sport's scrapheap is piled high with promising players who had all the right tools in the bag, but struggled to get it right between their ears.
Osaka has famously had her share of mental anguish on tour and she raised eyebrows during her press conference on Tuesday by saying her head "is everywhere at the moment".
When pressed by a journalist about the comment, Osaka explained.
"When I say my head is everywhere, I just mean I'm the type of person who thinks a lot, to the point where I overthink," she said.
"Sometimes when I play matches I have to tell myself to stop thinking, just go more on instinct.
"I feel like I have to chill a little bit because there's a lot of random chaos in my head right now."
Osaka conceded she has no schedule mapped out beyond this event, and couldn't say when she will step on a court again.
She will be hoping to travel Down Under in January to contest the grand slam she's won twice previously.
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