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Queen of Hardcourts Naomi Osaka claims she has "everything she needs to do well on clay & grass"

Naomi Osaka at the 2019 French Open
Naomi Osaka at the 2019 French Open
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Modified 22 Feb 2021
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Naomi Osaka has well and truly established herself as the best hardcourt player in the world. But now, Osaka is also looking forward to the challenge of winning on clay and grass - two surfaces she has historically struggled on.

The 23-year-old won her second Australian Open title on Saturday, to go along with her two US Open titles. But despite all her four Major titles coming on hardcourt, Naomi Osaka claimed in a recent interview that she has the game to transition that success to clay and grass.

"I feel like I have everything that I need to do well on clay and on grass, but it's just [about] feeling comfortable," Osaka said.

The Japanese didn't play a lot on the natural surfaces during her formative years, which is why she believes she'll take some time to get used to them on the pro tour.

"I don't think I feel totally comfortable on either surface because I didn't really play on red clay or grass growing up and I've played on hard basically my whole life," Osaka added. "So, yeah, just more experience."
Naomi Osaka with the 2021 Australian Open trophy
Naomi Osaka with the 2021 Australian Open trophy

Naomi Osaka has played the French Open four times in her career, and has reached the third round on three occasions. The World No. 2 recalled in particular her 2019 loss to Katerina Siniakova, which came just two days after her spectacular performance to defeat Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

"I think definitely it's a mental thing (learning to enjoy on clay)," Osaka added. "I know that the last time I played in the French Open (in 2019), I lost to Siniakova, but I had opportunities. I really remember thinking I was able to win that much, but in the end, it didn't go my way. I think that the more I play on it, the better I'll get."

Not afraid to take on challenges, Naomi Osaka expressed hope about completing her Grand Slam collection, which is currently missing the French Open and Wimbledon titles.

"I feel more excited than anything," Osaka said. "I think there's a feeling of doing something for the first time and wanting to be good at a lot of different things. For me, it's a real priority. And I also kind of want to complete my set of trophies. I'm missing two."
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"Every year that goes by, I learn more" - Naomi Osaka on her grasscourt inexperience

Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon
Naomi Osaka at Wimbledon

Besides clay, grass is the other surface that Naomi Osaka has not been able to transition her hardcourt dominance to. Osaka's best performance in her three Wimbledon appearances has been reaching the third round (which she has done twice).

With her big serve and aggressive groundstrokes, Naomi Osaka's game should theoretically be well suited to grass. But the Japanese has not played enough on the surface in her career, and she claimed she needs more time to get used to its peculiarities.

"Honestly for grass, I can definitely say it's an issue of experience because I don't really feel comfortable on the surface," Osaka said. "But I think every year that goes by, I learn more. I talk to more people."
"There are some people that can tell how the ball's going to bounce by the height of the blade," she added. "I don't even understand what that means, but I guess they're that experienced. So hopefully I'll get there one day."
Published 22 Feb 2021, 11:53 IST
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