Naomi Osaka tells how truthfully hating one thing fueled big play vs Elina Svitolina

Osaka delivered a great performance to beat Svitolina in two sets in the Miami Open second round.

by Dzevad Mesic
Naomi Osaka tells how truthfully hating one thing fueled big play vs Elina Svitolina
© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello

Naomi Osaka says her performance against Elina Svitolina may have been the best one yet since launching her post-pregnancy comeback and also shared that "truthfully hating" her performance in Indian Wells made her determined to find her mojo in Miami and "feel herself" on the court. 

In what was a major second-round matchup at the Miami Open, four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka ousted former world No. 3 Svitolina 6-2 7-6 (5).

On paper, it looked like a very tight match that would probably be determined by small margins. But when the match started, it was Osaka dominating and dictating everything on the court as the Japanese routinely won the first set after back-to-back breaks in the sixth and eighth games. 

In the second set, Osaka was 5-2 up and had a chance to serve out for the match in the ninth game but then got tight as Svitolina got the break back and ultimately forced a tie-break. But Osaka shrugged off failing to close out the match earlier as she took a 6-4 lead in the second-set tie-break and converted her second match point to get the job done against Svitolina in two sets.

"I thought it was a very fun match. I don't know. When I was playing, I just thought she was an amazing player, so I'm really glad I was able to win in two," Osaka said after the match.

"I definitely do think it was one of my best matches, if not the best match. But I also want myself to play better and better every match.

"I don't know. I feel like for me going into the match, I knew that she's a great player, and I had no choice but to play really well if I wanted a chance to win."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello

Osaka on 'truthfully hating' her Indian Wells performance 

Earlier this month, Osaka started her Indian Wells campaign with straight-set wins over Sara Errani and Liudmila Samsonova before suffering a 5-7 4-6 loss to Elise Mertens in the third round. Against Mertens, Osaka never found her game and struggled throughout the match, which resulted in a two-set loss in a match where many believed she had a great shot at winning. 

Now, the 26-year-old Japanese admits she didn't really feel or play well in the desert and that she "hated" it.

"Honestly, I feel like just not playing well in Indian Wells. I truthfully really hated my last performance there. I think I wasn't playing like myself and I wasn't dictating the point," Osaka explained.

"I feel like there are certain things that make a player a player. For me, it's dictating the points and, like, having a great serve. Those two things obviously weren't done well in that match.

"I just want to have progression and I want to go out like myself, even if I win or lose."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello

Osaka set for yet another clash against Caroline Garcia

Because Osaka's match against Svitolina was pushed back from Friday to Saturday due to rain, the former world No. 1 will return to the court today to meet No. 23 seed Caroline Garcia. For the 26-year-old Japanese and 30-year-old Garcia, it will be the third time that they are going up against each other this season.

When asked to share her thoughts on the Miami third-round matchup against Garcia, Osaka joked they are "friends" at this point before acknowledging that the 2022 WTA Finals champion is a great player and that she won't have an easy job of overcoming the Frenchwoman.

"Let me hear her thoughts first (laughter)," Osaka joked.

"Man, we're friends at this point. We're just, you know, work buddies. We see each other all the time. It's funny. I just want to be seeded so I can just stop playing her, like...

"I mean, my thoughts? She's an amazing player. I know this. Every match we play is really difficult. It's just going to be interesting playing on these courts because I really like these hard courts."

Naomi Osaka and Caroline Garcia
Naomi Osaka and Caroline Garcia© Getty Images Sport - Cameron Spencer

The first time that Osaka and Garcia met this year came in the Japanese's second post-pregnancy tournament as the Frenchwoman beat the two-time Australian Open champion 6-4 7-6 (2) in the first round at Melbourne Park. After that loss, the four-time Grand Slam champion didn't hide her unhappiness and frustration as she openly admitted that losing so early in Melbourne wasn't something she wanted. 

But a month later, Osaka got her revenge against Garcia when she delivered a great performance in Doha to beat the former world No. 4 7-5 6-4. Osaka and Garcia also played once at the 2021 Australian Open when the Japanese won that match 6-2 6-3.

The Osaka and Garcia is set to highlight third-round action in Miami and it will be interesting to see who ends on the winning side.

Naomi Osaka Elina Svitolina Miami Open