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"Hard to play against high-quality players with low-quality tennis" - Naomi Osaka after shock loss to Maria Sakkari

Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Miami Open
Naomi Osaka at the 2021 Miami Open
ANALYST
Modified 01 Apr 2021
News

Naomi Osaka’s 23-match win streak came to an end on Wednesday as Maria Sakkari sent her packing from the Miami Open. The Greek inflicted a crushing 6-0, 6-4 defeat on Osaka who, as the scoreline suggests, was all but a passenger for most parts of the match.

Speaking to the media after her defeat, Naomi Osaka likened the result to her last defeat on tour - against Coco Gauff at the 2020 Australian Open. The Japanese claimed she played even worse against Sakkari than she did against Gauff, but added that she is trying to learn how to win matches when she can’t find her best tennis.

"For me, I feel a bit similar to when I lost to Coco in Australia," Naomi Osaka said. "But I think in this match, it's different. Like I feel I played worse here, possibly, but I fought more. So I think I am improving in that way. Because I feel like even if you're not playing great, you should still find ways to win. And I'm trying to find ways to do that."

Naomi Osaka further revealed that she didn't feel comfortable at any point of this year's Miami Open, where she was also pushed to the limit by an out-of-form Ajla Tomljanovic. The 23-year-old claimed that it is 'mentally hard' for her to compete against top players like Maria Sakkari when she is not playing at the level she is capable of.

"I felt like I haven't been playing well, this whole tournament like I couldn't find a groove," Osaka said. "So mentally, it's really hard for me to play against really high-quality players with what I feel is low-quality tennis. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to learn from (the loss)."

I'll have more freedom on the clay courts and on the grass: Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka at the 2019 French Open
Naomi Osaka at the 2019 French Open

Naomi Osaka was also asked if the end of her 23-match unbeaten streak had a silver lining, as she wouldn't have the pressure to keep the run going during the clay season. In response, the Japanese claimed that she would have more freedom on non-hardcourt surfaces anyway, as she still considers herself to be a work in progress on clay and grass.

"I feel like no matter what, I'll have more freedom on the clay courts and on the grass than on hard, because I feel like I'm still learning a lot on those surfaces," Osaka said.

The 23-year-old then added an air of caution by highlighting a recent instance where she ended up getting too affected by a press conference question. Osaka claimed that when she was asked to give her thoughts on the No. 1 ranking, she started thinking too much about it and that in turn put pressure on her game.

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But the four-time Slam champion went on to stress that she should be able to deal with such issues.

"So it's hard to say but I do think like the last time I was in this seat, I wasn't really thinking at all about rankings," Naomi Osaka said. "But someone asked me that question. So then it did. I did start to ponder about it a lot. So maybe unwillingly, that put pressure on myself. But I feel like, even if it did, I should be able to rise above that. And you know, I'm going to be asked various questions in the future anyway."
Published 01 Apr 2021, 16:11 IST
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