Tennis: Fighting Naomi Osaka aiming to break the fall

Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks at a press conference ahead of the start of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, Aug. 27, 2022. File photo.  Peter Foley, EPA-EFE.
Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks at a press conference ahead of the start of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, Aug 27, 2022. File photo. Peter Foley, EPA-EFE.

TOKYO, Japan – Fighter Naomi Osaka admitted on Monday that she’s had “more lows than highs” this year as she tries to come out of her slump at her home at the Pan Pacific Open this week.

The former world number one and four-time Grand Slam champion has dropped to 48th in the women’s tennis world rankings after an unfortunate run that saw her crash in the first round of her last three tournaments.

The 24-year-old Japanese has not won a title since last year’s Australian Open and has been hampered this season by an injury.

But Osaka hopes to hit the ship at the WTA event in Tokyo, where she is the reigning champion, although it’s been three years since the tournament returns for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

She will face stiff competition from a field that includes US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia of France, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and number four from Spain Paula Badosa.

“This year hasn’t been the best for me, but I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Osaka said, adding that she was “happy to be healthy.”

“Life is full of ups and downs, and this year was more low than high, but overall I’m very happy with where I am now.”

Osaka has been out of the top 10 all year and suffered first-round defeats at the French and US Opens.

She withdrew from Wimbledon with an Achilles tendon injury, after originally considering skipping the tournament because ranking points would not be awarded.

Osaka admitted that his fall from the top of the sport was hard to deal with.

“It was kind of hard at first, just because I feel like I should be somewhere where I’m obviously not currently,” she said.

“I think for me it’s more about being at peace with myself. I know I’m here for a reason.”

Osaka said she was looking forward to playing in front of Japanese fans again after participating in last year’s Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors, but would have to “trust my forehand more” to rebuild her confidence after her poor season.

She will start her campaign against Australia’s No. 55 in the world, Daria Saville, in the first round.

Osaka paid tribute to tennis legend Serena Williams, who retired after the US Open, and said she has “surpassed trying to take people’s shoes”.

“I don’t think you can do that because everyone is unique, and we’re all forging our own paths and we’re all on our own journeys,” Osaka said.

“It’s really amazing all the things she’s done for this sport and beyond. Just seeing her as a businesswoman is really cool.”

© Agence France-Presse

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