Naomi Osaka admitted she felt "a little bit like a failure" following her Abu Dhabi loss to Danielle Collins and seeing her losing streak grow to three consecutive matches early in her post-pregnancy comeback.
Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, came to this week's WTA 500 event in Abu Dhabi hoping to find some rhythm and win a couple of matches, but it didn't go as planned for the Japanese. On Tuesday, former world No. 1 Osaka kicked off and also concluded her Abu Dhabi run after 2022 Australian Open finalist Collins gave her a 7-5 6-0 defeat in the first round.
Before coming to Abu Dhabi, Osaka defeated Tamara Korpatsch in the Brisbane International first round before losing to Karolina Pliskova in her following Brisbane match and also ending on the losing side to Caroline Garcia in the Australian Open first round.
"I say some pretty harsh words about myself. I know the word, but if I say it, it sounds really bad. I felt a little like a 'failure', but I don't want to be too harsh," Osaka told AFP.
Osaka's confidence has been shaken a bit
Hours after exiting the Abu Dhabi singles event, Osaka returned to the court for a doubles match with Ons Jabeur. In her team with Jabeur, Osaka didn't have much success as the star duo suffered a 6-3 6-3 loss to Magda Linette and Bernarda Pera.
After ending on the losing side in three consecutive singles matches and also losing one doubles match, Osaka admitted that it took at least a slight toll on her confidence levels.
"I'm less confident but I'm not too unconfident to think that I can't play really good tennis. I really think I just need to get through a really tough match and then sort of acknowledge that that's going to happen quite a couple of times," Osaka admitted.
Reflecting on what went wrong against Collins, Osaka highlighted the situation from late in the first set. Through the first nine games of the match, Osaka had a 5-4 lead but without breaks. Then, Collins earned the first break of the match in the 11th game and went on to claim a straight-set win after winning nine games in a row.
Early in the match, Osaka was clearly very competitive and playing well. But the moment Osaka fell down by a break, her entire game shut down. Going forward, Osaka highlights she just can't allow that to happen.
"Everyone around me is telling me I'm playing well and I don't think I'm playing bad. I just need to believe in myself more and I think as soon as I got broken my belief dipped a lot," Osaka said.
Osaka 'frustrated' and wants to win for her daughter
When Osaka launched her comeback in Australia, no one was really putting any expectations on pressure for Osaka to make some strong results in her first tournaments after being sidelined for 16 months.
While many thought that Osaka could play in Australia freely and relaxed because she was coming off a very long break, the Japanese didn't feel really that way as she admitted to feeling "frustrated" and "upset" after losing to Garcia in the first round at Melbourne Park. Also, Osaka highlighted that if she has to leave her six-month-old daughter Shai to travel to tournaments, she at least wants to make that time count and win for her.
For Osaka, making the Brisbane round-of-16 and losing in the Australian Open first-round just wasn't good and she wanted to do much better than going 1-2 in Australia. Also, Osaka made a telling comment by revealing that she is "delusional enough" to think she can win these tournaments instantly.
“The competitor in me is really frustrated that I’m not winning these matches, of course," Osaka said after her Australian Open loss.
"So I wouldn’t say this comeback is how I thought because I’m delusional enough to think I could have won the tournament. I think my delusion is what allows me to win the tournaments.
"I think I just have to keep living day by day and training hard and playing a lot more matches, and hopefully my dreams will come true.”
Shortly after Osaka's Australian Open loss, it was announced that the four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka was accepting a main draw wildcard into Abu Dhabi at the start of the Middle East Swing. After landing in Abu Dhabi, Osaka admitted that her decision to take an Abu Dhabi wildcard was prompted by her early Australian Open exit and her hope of getting rediscovering some form and rhythm as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for Osaka, she didn't really leave Abu Dhabi with improved confidence or with her first major result of the year. However, Osaka won't have to wait too long for her next chance to earn some wins as the former world No. 1 is set to take part in a WTA 1000 tournament in Doha next week after using her protected ranking to enter the tournament.
In Doha, Osaka absolutely won't have an easy job of making a strong result since pretty much all top players will be competing in the opening WTA 1000 event of the year. But if Osaka manages to do well in Doha, it could certainly provide her with a massive boost of confidence.