CNN  — 

Naomi Osaka says the heartbreaking situations in Haiti and Afghanistan have made her feel grateful for her tennis career.

The four-time grand slam champion had taken a break from the game earlier this year in a bid to protect her mental health but told reporters that she now feels grateful for her position.

Following the Haiti earthquake on Saturday, which killed over a thousand people, Osaka posted a picture on Instagram of her wearing a mask with the national flag on it.

She also pledged to donate her earnings from this week’s Western & Southern Open to support earthquake relief efforts in the country where her father hails from.

In the press conference following her win against Coco Gauff on Wednesday, she also mentioned the tragic scenes in Afghanistan as people try to flee the new Taliban regime.

“I guess seeing the state of the world, how everything is in Haiti, how everything is in Afghanistan right now is definitely really crazy,” she told reporters.

“For me just to be hitting a tennis ball in the United States right now and have people come and watch me play is, I don’t know, like I would want to be myself in this situation rather than anyone else in the world.”

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Naomi Osaka wears a Haiti face mask ahead of her second round match at the Western & Southern Open.

‘That itself is an accomplishment’

Osaka brought the issue of mental well-being to the forefront of the conversation when she withdrew from this year’s French Open because she didn’t want to participate in news conferences.

The 23-year-old cited mental health concerns and said she struggled speaking to the media around tournaments, having experienced anxiety and depression.

In preparing to compete in her first tennis tournament since the Tokyo Olympics, she took a brief break during a pre-tournament press conference on Monday after she started crying.

“I was wondering why was I was so affected, I guess. Like what made me not want to do media in the first place,” she continued.

“Sometimes, I would see headlines of players losing and then the headline the next day would be a ‘collapse’ or ‘they’re not that great anymore.’

“So then I was thinking, me waking up every day, I should feel like I’m winning. The choice to go out there and play, to go see fans, that people come out and watch me play, that itself is an accomplishment.

“I’m not sure when along the way I started desensitizing that.”

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Gold medalist Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry stands on the podium for the women's 200m backstroke swimming final medal ceremony at the National Aquatics Center during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 16, 2008.    Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe set a new world record in the women's 200 metres backstroke with a time of two minutes 05.24 seconds in the final at the Beijing Olympics. US swimmer Margaret Hoelzer placed second and Japanese swimmer Reiko Nakamura placed third.  AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
'You have to train your brain as much as any muscle'
02:47 - Source: CNN

Osaka mentioned the Covid-19 regulations around tennis over the last year had only amplified the issue.

Players had to stay in strict bubbles during tournaments in order to prevent the spread of cases.

“It started not being an accomplishment for me, so I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact,” she added.

“I think definitely this whole Covid thing was very stressful with the bubbles and not seeing people and not having the interactions.”