Injury-hit Osaka heads to French Open after 'rocky' clay season
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[May 22, 2019]
By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - After pulling out of
last week's Italian Open due to injury, World number one Naomi Osaka
admitted she has had a ďrockyĒ claycourt season heading into the
Osaka, who won the Australian Open in January to follow on from her
dramatic victory over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open in 2018, is
looking to become just the 11th woman to claim a third consecutive
Grand Slam title.
However, following the hand injury that forced her out of a
quarter-final clash with Kiki Bertens in Rome and an abdominal
injury suffered in Stuttgart last month, Osaka arrives in Paris with
concerns over both her form and fitness.
The 21-year-old has proved herself a destructive and powerful
hardcourt player with her two Grand Slam wins in the past year, but
her record on clay is less impressive.
Osaka has never won a top level WTA event on the surface and has
failed to progress past the third round previously at Roland Garros.
"I would describe (my clay season) as rocky,Ē Osaka said in Rome.
"But I canít necessarily say itís been ups and downs because if I
think about it, itís definitely been going up. Every match Iíve
played Iíve learned a lot. Iíve tried to take what Iíve learned into
the next match and I think Iíve done that well.Ē
Anyone tempted to doubt Osaka ahead of the French Open, which begins
next week, should consider her Grand Slam record.
Osaka saves her best performances for the biggest stage; she has won
76% of all of her Grand Slam matches. Her win ratio at other
tournaments is in the 50s.
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Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during her third round match against
Belarus' Aliaksandra Sasnovich REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo
During a recent interview with the Financial Times, Osaka admitted
to feeling the pressure that comes with being world number one.
"Iíve never been number one and a lot of people were talking about
it and I think I let it get to my head a little bit,Ē she said.
"When youíre number one youíre not really supposed to lose. At
least, thatís how I feel. Of course, people lose all the time. But I
just felt like I should at least win a tournament every month or
Osaka's compatriot Kei Nishikori looks a far cry from the player who
last reached the French Open quarter-finals in 2017.
The 29-year-old is still coming back from a wrist injury suffered in
2017, but did win his first title in three years at the Brisbane
International in January.
However, since then the world number seven has struggled, going out
before the quarter-final stage at five of his eight tournaments
since the Australian Open.
He lost to Argentinaís Diego Schwartzman in the Rome quarters.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Toby Davis)
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