Photo/IllutrationJapan's Naomi Osaka holds her trophy after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 26. (AP Photo)

The “inner peace” Naomi Osaka referred to during an interview at the Australian Open means a calm, peaceful state of mind.

The Japanese word “heijoshin” (one’s usual, ordinary state of mind) appears to capture its essence.

Osaka says she can play well when her mind is calm.

“There is an inner peace I can tap into sometimes during my matches. So that's just something that I'm trying to learn how to do consistently," she said.

As she played in the Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne, Osaka threw her racket in frustration on some occasions. In some other tough situations, however, she just turned her back on the court and managed to pull herself together.

Through her brilliant performances at the tournament, the Japanese tennis sensation showed how she was developing both mental strength and tennis skills simultaneously. Osaka won the Australian Open for her second consecutive Grand Slam title after winning the U.S. Open in September. She has also pulled off the feat of securing the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

In the women’s final on Jan. 26, in which Osaka faced Petra Kvitova, many Japanese must have clenched their fists as they watched Osaka do the same on TV.

After snaring the first set through a tiebreak, Osaka was on the verge of losing her concentration as she squandered three consecutive match points in the second set. There was some suspense, as things appeared to be heading toward a tearful end for her.

In 2014, Osaka was a little-known young tennis player ranked 406th. She could not have been able to capitalize on her robust physique and outstanding athletic prowess to achieve her meteoric rise to tennis stardom had she not built up her mental resilience.

Her great achievement offers a lesson useful for many people even if they are not tennis players or athletes.

Before the Australian Open, Osaka talked about her “3-year-old mentality” in discussing her goal of becoming more “mature.” During the tournament, she jokingly said she had grown a bit and become a 4-year-old.

Imagine how powerful she will be when she finally declares that she has grown mentally mature.

We will be unable to take our eyes off the new face of women’s tennis as the amazing story of her growth unfolds.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 27

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.