Despite loss, Osaka feeling positive heading into French Open

Despite loss, Osaka feeling positive heading into French Open

Naomi Osaka came out on the losing side against China’s Qinwen Zheng in the fourth round of the Italian Open in Rome on Monday.

However, the four-time Grand Slam winner leaves Rome feeling happy about her clay court game heading into this year’s French Open, which kicks off in less than two weeks’ time.

Last week, Osaka scored her first career top 20 win on clay – against 20th ranked Marta Kostyuk and then backed it up with a win over 11th ranked Daria Kasatkina before being stopped by Zheng, who won in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

“Overall I’m really happy I was able to fight a lot in the second set. I think I’m happy with my performance in Rome. It’s been a while since I played well on. I guess I’ve never played well on clay, so I guess I’m happy (smiling),” Osaka told the media in Rome on Monday.

“I think I definitely feel a lot more confident leaving than when I came. I hope that I can learn a lot from the match I played today and apply it and do really well in Paris. I would say I’m very happy with the level that changed from Madrid to Rome. I think the steady progression is something that I’m very confident about.”

“I just felt like something drastically different is going to happen” – Osaka on facing a top 10 player

Naomi Osaka, Rome 2024
Naomi Osaka in Rome, 2024 (Inside/Panoramic)

The last time Osaka had played an opponent ranked in the top 10 was more than two years ago – when she lost to then world No 2 Iga Swiatek in the Miami final. It had been so long that she overwhelmed herself thinking about how it might be to face a top 10 player, only to realise that the major difference was not in the level of tennis.

“She’s in the top 10, so I just really expect I guess amazing tennis from a top 10 player. I think for me, if I was frustrated, it was more from myself. I feel like I expected a lot from her, and it made me very overwhelmed with my own game. In reality, it wasn’t like that at all. I kind of only understood that in the second set. That’s why it was a bit closer. In the first set, I definitely overwhelmed myself after the first two or three games,” the former world No 1 said.

“I think it’s been a while since I played a top 10 player. I just felt like something drastically different is going to happen. I wasn’t as experienced. I’m pretty I guess happy that I was able to play this match because I will learn a lot from it. I’ll learn that the level’s not that different. It’s kind of just more key moments I would say, staying mentally very resilient in myself and my abilities.”

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