Sports, Tennis

Osaka hoping to conquer clay-court problems

Published : 29 Apr 2021 08:35 PM

AFP, Madrid

Naomi Osaka has said she needed a break from tennis ahead of the start of the Madrid Open this week, when the world number two will be hoping to kickstart her career on clay.

Osaka has never won a WTA tournament on the red dirt while at the French Open, which starts next month, she is yet to make it past the third round.

The Japanese four-time Grand Slam champion will be the number two seed in Madrid, where she plays having taken almost a month off following her quarter-final exit in Miami.

Her defeat by Maria Sakkari broke a 23-match winning streak and came after Osaka won the Australian Open in February to back up her triumph at the US Open last year.

“After Miami I took a bit of a break because I felt like I needed to slow my mind down a little bit,” said Osaka in a press conference on Wednesday.

“I felt like I needed it because after Australia I had like one day of rest then I immediately started working. It wasn’t tennis, but other stuff. For me, I just felt like the hard-court swing, the Australian hard-court swing, plus Miami, was kind of compressed for me. “I didn’t really have time to see my family because I haven’t seen them since Christmas before I went down to Florida. I just wanted to spend time with them and chill out a little bit.”

Despite her success on hard courts, Osaka is yet to find her best either on grass or clay, and she will be hoping to gain confidence and rhythm in Madrid, starting with her first round match against compatriot Misaki Doi.

Simona Halep, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka are all in Osaka’s half of the draw.

“It’s exciting to go into the clay-court swing because I haven’t won a tournament on clay yet,” Osaka said.

“Even though that does make me a bit excited, it also gives me a bit of stress because I really want to do well here.

“I do better when I don’t stress myself out and tell myself that I have to win a tournament. But it’s really hard to fight that feeling when you really want something.”