Naomi Osaka, the renowned Tennis player from Japan who currently sits on the No.2 spot on the ATP World Rankings, will leave the Tokyo 2020 Olympics without a medal, as the four-time grand slam winner was upset in the third round on Tuesday by Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
Vondrousova, previously the 2019 French Open finalist, advanced to the next round with a two-set victory of 6-1, 6-4 over Osaka.
“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” Osaka said in a post-match interview.
THE OLYMPICS MAGIC
The Olympics seem to have a different sort of magic in itself, as Osaka is not the only name to be eliminated from the competition early on. World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty from Australia, who had recently won the Wimbledon in July 2021, too headed home after an opening-round loss to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo. The ATP Men’s World No. 1 ranked player Novak Djokovic of Serbia was also eliminated after a semi-final loss last night.
For Osaka, however, this upset is arguably much bigger than her previous ones. The face of these Olympics, in her home turf and in the hard surface that she loves to play on, this is the first time Osaka had lost on a hard court in the early stages of the game, since the 2020 Australian Open, when she lost to American Coco Gauff in the third round.
Unsurprisingly, all seven of Osaka’s career titles have come on hard courts.
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The 23-year-old Osaka was presented with the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron in Tokyo to officially open the Games. Born in Osaka, Japan, Naomi Osaka was born to a father of Haitian descent and a Japanese mother. Moving to the United States at the age of three, she held the ATP world No.1 ranking in 2019 and currently sits just a place behind at No. 2.
“Undoubtedly, the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”, Osaka had Tweeted following the opening ceremony.
“The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed, and I’m happy again.”, she continued in an interview.
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A MUCH NEEDED BREAK
“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said after the loss. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before, and for the first year, it was a bit much. I think I’m glad about how I played, with taking that break that I had.”, she added.
This was the first Olympics participation for the 23-year-old Tennis star who had previously withdrawn from the French Open in May 2021, citing her mental health.
“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.”, said Osaka with a smile. “I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”
Vondrousova, only 22, who defeated Osaka to progress to the next round where she will face Spain’s Paula Badosa, said that the win against Osaka was “one of the biggest” of her career.
THIRD ROUND UPSET
Osaka, feeling confident after defeating Zheng Saisai of China in straight sets in her Olympic debut, had then sailed past Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in the second round in 65 minutes.
On Tuesday, however, Osaka seemed a little unsettle and couldn’t find grounds to defend the center court. Vondrousova was better from the first serve and managed to compile 66 points to Osaka’s 47. Vondrousova broke Osaka five times, pressuring her to make 32 unforced errors. On the other hand, Vondrousova herself had only 10.
PRAISES FROM THE ADVERSARY
“Naomi is a great player, she has so many grand slams, so I knew it would be a tough match,” said Vondrousova. “But I’m just very happy with my play. I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I’m just happy to be through.”
EYES SET ON THE US OPEN
For her next challenge, Naomi Osaka is now going to prepare for the US Open, which is set to start next month in August, in New York. She is the defending champion of the competition and will definitely be looking to secure it for a second consecutive time.
Following her exit, Naomi Osaka said that representing Japan at the opening ceremony and on the court had her “a little bit out of my body.” And described it as an experience that she will never forget. Sadly it just ended sooner than anyone expected.