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"Not sure if we're ever gonna see the great Naomi Osaka who's gonna win Slams again" - Mats Wilander

Naomi Osaka exits the arena after losing to Amanda Anisimova in the third of Australian Open 2022
Naomi Osaka exits the arena after losing to Amanda Anisimova in the third of Australian Open 2022
Iman Guha
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Defending champion Naomi Osaka was outlasted by Amanda Anisimova in the third round of the 2022 Australian Open on Friday. In the aftermath of the match, Mats Wilander spoke at length with Eurosport about the prospects of Osaka finding her best tennis again.

Wilander, a seven-time Major champion himself, expressed skepticism about Osaka's chances of adding to her Slam tally of four.

"I am not sure if we are ever gonna see the great Naomi Osaka who's gonna win Grand Slam tournaments again," Wilander said.

The Swede also addressed the expectations that viewers have of Osaka in general. Wilander believes the fans should understand that it will be difficult for the Japanese to hit top gear.

"But I think it's really important that we realize it's gonna be tough for her," he went on. "Should we help her out by laying off her a little bit?"

Naomi Osaka talked extensively about her battles with mental health issues last year. She withdrew from Roland Garros after expressing an unwillingness to attend press conferences during the tournament, and has played only sporadically since then.

Against that background, Mats Wilander pointed out that every tennis pro goes through various stages in their career. He explained that the importance of the game in a player's life can vary over time.

"At the same time, you go through different stages in your tennis career," Wilander said. "When you come on the tour, and tennis is everything. Then you suddenly have your first love affair, then suddenly that's more important than tennis. We take these stages."

"I don't think we should expect the Naomi Osaka of old to be back" - Mats Wilander

Naomi Osaka with the 2021 Australian Open trophy
Naomi Osaka with the 2021 Australian Open trophy

Mats Wilander went on to speak about the need for Naomi Osaka to re-evaluate her source of motivation. Wilander believes the former World No. 1 needs to introspect and identify her reason for playing tennis, and decide whether it's to have a good time or to win more Slams.

"I think, for Naomi Osaka, she's gonna have to re-evaluate a little bit - why I am out here playing tennis, do I care, do I not care, am I having a good time, am I trying to win a grand slam, four or five does it matter," Wilander said.

The Swede also suggested that Osaka's apparent failure to learn how to hit crisp volleys and effective slice backhands may be starting to hurt her. Wilander believes it is difficult for an established player to learn new skills, and compared it to learning a new language.

"I need to learn how to volley, I need to learn how to hit a sliced backhand," Wilander said. "I need to learn a new language, so to speak. And I think that's the hard part about being a professional tennis player."

Wilander also stated that he doesn't believe the Osaka of old will magically make a re-appearance. He went on to suggest that the former World No. 1 look ahead and develop new goals along the way.

"I don't think we should expect the Naomi Osaka of old to be back," Wilander said. "She needs to look forward, just like Emma Raducanu, and say, 'Okay, I have a US Open, forget about that, now I am moving on to other things.'"

Edited by Musab Abid
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