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Naomi Osaka plays down chances of reaching No. 1 ranking, says she's "not thinking of it as a straightforward goal right now"

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
Namit Kumar
ANALYST
Modified 31 Mar 2021
News

Following her straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens in the fourth round of the Miami Open, Naomi Osaka talked about the relevance of the World No. 1 ranking in her career at the moment.

Osaka has the opportunity to grab the top spot this week, but that depends on external circumstances. The 23-year-old could ascend to the summit if she reaches the final of the Miami Open, assuming current World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty loses early.

If Barty reaches the semifinals, then Osaka will need to win the tournament to confirm her jump. And if the Aussie gets to the final, the ranking position will not change hands no matter what.

Naomi Osaka had first ascended to the No. 1 ranking back in 2019, becoming the first Asian woman to get there. When she was asked on Monday about her motivation to reach the top again, the Japanese replied that she would consider it an 'honor' but that she wasn't thinking too much about it.

"I wouldn't say it's a case of 'been there, done that'," Osaka said. "I understand what an honor it would be to be No. 1. But for me, I have realised that my mind does not function well if I keep thinking about all the things that could be."

The 23-year-old went on to assert that she was more concerned about playing well in each of her matches than accumulating a certain number of ranking points.

"So right now I'm just thinking of playing this tournament and every round I play is against a really tough opponent," Osaka said. "So I'm trying to take it round by round and hopefully it will lead me to the finals or to win, and I know that if you win more tournaments you will get the opportunity to be World No. 1. But I'm not just taking it as a straightforward goal right now."

"Mentally stronger" coming back from the break: Naomi Osaka on her winning form post lockdown

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
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During her presser, Naomi Osaka claimed that her improved mental strength has been one of the reasons for her sizzling form since the restart of the tennis tour.

"Honestly, I have worked with Wim (Fissette) on a lot of things," Osaka said. "But for me, my mind is very important and I would just say I am mentally stronger coming back from everything."

Naomi Osaka has won titles at the US Open and Australian Open since the WTA resumption last August. The only matches she hasn't won have been because of withdrawals - in the Western & Southern Open 2020 final, and the 2021 Gippsland trophy semifinal.

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The 23-year-old, however, also spoke about the parts of her game that still need improvement.

"I feel like tennis is a sport that is always evolving," Naomi Osaka went on. "There are constantly new players and you always have to have a lot of different strategies. So I think just being able to adapt quicker and have a set strategy that I really have a high win-rate with (are things to improve on)."
Published 30 Mar 2021, 23:29 IST
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