Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka says she doesn't know a child tennis player who hasn't pretended at least once to be like Rafael Nadal. Osaka, a former World No. 1, has been watching videos of Nadal lately as she strives to improve her game on clay.
Osaka has won seven titles throughout her career, but is still searching for her first title on clay. "[Can you] imagine? In fact, I've been warming up the left hand a bit, but I don't think it's a skill that's going to show up any time soon.
It's like for technical reasons. If I hit the forehand with my left hand, it's easier to hit the backhand, if that makes sense," Osaka said, according to the WTA website. "I know that every kid growing up playing tennis in the world has pretended to be Nadal at least once." Osaka, 24, is set to make her fifth appearance in Madrid.
Osaka's best result in Madrid came in 2019, when she reached the quarterfinals before falling in three sets to Belinda Bencic. Osaka was drawn to face Anastasia Potapova at her Madrid premiere, as she intends to start her clay-court season on a positive note.
"I always say I want to have a good time, which is true, even off the court I want to have a good time," Osaka said. "I try to take one tournament at a time. Of course, win matches and get to France, I want to get to the semi-finals, either here or in Rome, and I hope to win.
But first I'm going to set myself a small goal."
Mark Knowles opens up on Rafa Nadal
Former doubles World No. 1 Mark Knowles recently hailed Rafael Nadal's competitive spirit, saying he's never seen a better fighter than the Spaniard in the history of the sport.
"I mean have you ever seen a better competitor in any sport?" Knowles said. "I mean, I've gone on record with a lot of people and I respect every single athlete, I mean I am a sports fanatic, the Jordans, the Woods, the Gretzkys, there is no greater competitor in my eyes than Rafael Nadal.
"And the reason I say that is, you break down tennis, we've all played matches, whether it be 40-0, whether it be 4-0, where your mindset is 'I'm not going to give a hundred per cent. I've been around the game for a long time," Knowles said.
"I've played, watched and commentated Rafael Nadal. I've never seen him not give a hundred per cent on a point, I never have. If someone has, please send me a clip of it because I haven't.