"If I lose, it's okay..." Naomi Osaka commented about her playing style during the second round of the Gippsland Trophy in Melbourne, Australia. She had come off a strict quarantine, constant viral testing and feelings of uncertainty as to how she'd fare with competitors during these Pandemic times.
Well it turned out to be okay and Osaka didn't lose to her opponent Katie Boulter but there were unsure points where the match could have gone either way. "I was nervous," the young Japanese murmured about playing Alize Cornet her first opponent.
She also felt shaky going into the round with Boulter. It might have been knowing that the Brit had just defeated 16-year-old Coco Gauff didn't set exactly right in Osaka's mind. Would she be also defeated by Boulter? She didn't know.
All she knew was that she just won over Cornet in straight sets and tried keeping that winning mantra in her second round. After losing 3-6 in the opening set to Boulter, Osaka tried to correct those errors going into the second set.
Boulter had those sharp angles destroying Naomi's game and rhythm but it was all different in the next set. Osaka's rhythm was improved and her strokes had dictating powers unlike the first set. She was in gear again and walked across the court showing more confidence in her down-the-lines, volleys and drop shots that yielded her a 6-3 win in the second set.
She had broken the Brit's self assurance and went on in the deciding set to claim victory with her consistency and power to win the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Osaka acknowledged the last competitive match she played was at the US Open
This made her nervous to be the first tournament and a grand slam but it's funny what a few wins even on a smaller stage can do.
The young Japanese left the court after her win over Boulter feeling uplifted. She admitted with a smile that "I always feel really nice here in Australia...It's a new year but hopefully, I'll kept playing better."