Naomi Osaka just made one little girl’s day at the U.S. Open.
The tennis superstar, 23, won her match on Monday against Czech player Marie Bouzkova at Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing, New York. After her victory, she ran over to the stands and handed something special to a young fan: a commemorative pin from her time at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I just heard her when I was playing my match, and she was so cute, so thank you for cheering me on,” Osaka said in a video clip shared by ESPN during her post-match interview in the stadium.
The young supporter waved from the stands, looking thrilled to be singled out by the Japanese tennis star.
“In the Olympics, we got little pins that we were supposed to pass around to other players, you know, like trading pins,” Osaka continued. “And I wasn’t there for a long time, so I have a couple in my bag left over. But yeah, I thought it would be like a nice little memory.”
Twitter user Tim Blacksmith, who says he is the girl’s father, tweeted a photo of himself and his daughter beaming in the stands.
“Dear @naomiosaka Thank You So Much For Making My Daughters First @usopen A Truly Memorable One. Much Love And Blessings,” he wrote in the caption.
This was Osaka’s first Grand Slam appearance since she withdrew from the French Open in May, citing mental health issues.
"The best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," she wrote on Twitter at the time.
"I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly," she added. "The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."
She also said she had experienced “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to reporters.
"Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted," she added, "and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."
Osaka withdrew from the French Open a day after she was fined $15,000 by tennis officials for refusing to do press interviews during the tournament.
"I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health," she wrote. "I stand by that. Athletes are humans."