Naomi Osaka has established herself as one of the best players in the game with her dominance at the hardcourt Slams. Osaka's performances on clay and grass, however, have left a lot to be desired. The 23-year-old is yet to make the second week at either Roland Garros or Wimbledon, despite having made a total of seven attempts.
But Martina Navratilova believes Naomi Osaka has the tools to excel in non-hardcourt Slams too. In a recent discussion about Osaka’s poor record at the French Open and Wimbledon, Navratilova highlighted some of the qualities in the Japanese's game that she reckons will help her succeed sooner rather than later.
Martina Navratilova herself is one of the most distinguished female players of all time, having won nine Wimbledon titles and two French Open crowns in singles. In addition, Navratilova also bagged seven singles Slams at the Australian Open and US Open together.
The American insisted that Naomi Osaka is still going through a learning curve when it comes to playing on clay. Navratilova also claimed that Osaka’s powerful game is tailor-made for grass, given how the surface can bring the best out of her kick serve and missile-like groundstrokes.
"There's no doubt that she has the game to win both on the clay and the grass," Navratilova said. "I think she's still learning when to pull the trigger on the clay. Grass, there is no reason for her not to dominate on grass, as well. The kick serve is great for grass. It's magnified by bad bounces, the kick. Her big shots pay off better on grass than the other surfaces, other than maybe a fast court like was in Australia this year."
Martina Navratilova also pointed out that surfaces these days are a lot more homogenous than they used to be. The 18-time Major champion claimed that grass courts have slowed down while clay courts have been sped up, making things overall a bit simpler for players like Naomi Osaka.
"The potential is there, no doubt about it," Navratilova added. "The surfaces are much more similar than they used to be. Grass is slower, clay is faster, the balls are faster. You don't have to make nearly as much of an adjustment as you used to."
Sky is the limit for Naomi Osaka: Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova opined that Naomi Osaka needs to spend some time practicing on clay, and even more so on the grass. The American claimed that players don't invest as much time into grasscourt training as they did during her days, possibly because of the paucity of events on the surface.
Navratilova feels that Naomi Osaka ought to practice on grass throughout the year, as opposed to limiting herself to a couple of weeks of training before Wimbledon. The 64-year-old also stressed that Osaka doesn't need adjustments to her game but instead requires more match practice.
"The sky's the limit," Navratilova said about Osaka's all-surface potential. "It's just a matter of putting in the time and getting more instinctual on the surface, that's all. Especially grass, because you only have that one tournament. I think maybe she needs to get on the grass during the year, not just before Wimbledon, to get more comfortable with it, so it's like coming home."
"We used to have two grass court seasons, in Australia and at Wimbledon in Europe," the American added. "You had like two months on the surface, so six weeks. Now they have two to three weeks on it. It shows up. They're not that comfortable on it. She just needs the mileage on it. Game-wise there's not that much of an adjustment to make."