Since winning a historic second grand slam at the Australian Open, world No. 1 Naomi Osaka has been struggling with her focus. She suffered a shock first match loss in the tournament right afterwards, the Dubai Tennis Championships, now followed by early round losses at Indian Wells and Miami.
Besides her phenomenal achievement in Melbourne, the year so far has produced disappointing results. Naomi Osaka discussed some of the issues she’s dealing with in her Miami Open press conference. “I just think I got too emotional, which is something I did last match, too.
I'm not really sure why this is happening, but it's kind of unusual for me I think a little bit. “But, yeah, I think in that moment I got ahead of myself, but all the other times it was pretty fine. Like, I knew it was going to be a tough match playing her”.
The loss to Hsieh Su-wei was a reversal of their matchup at the Australian Open third round. There too, the first set went to the loser of the match, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. The Taiwanese player seems to have learned from the experience.
“Yeah, she was hitting down the line on balls I was sure she would go cross-court. Yeah, I definitely thought she was being unpredictable”. The 21-year-old talked about that hard-fought match in Australia. “I don't think I ever underestimated her because all the times I played her was three sets.
In Australia, honestly she should have won but I found a way to win it. I don't necessarily think I underestimate her. “I think maybe today I overestimated myself maybe in a way”. The pressure of achieving the top ranking seems to be affecting the young Japanese player as well.
She certainly wouldn’t be the first to buckle under the stress since skyrocketing up to world No. 1. Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, and Simona Halep went through similar stress when they reached the top WTA spot the first time around.
Unlike Osaka, neither of those players had achieved the slam to go with it, in the first go around. “I mean, of course I want to win every match I play. I feel like I've dealt with the stress of people asking me: do I have pressure because I have the No.
1 next to my name? I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I'm not. I think more about winning now compared to the matches before where I didn't necessarily think that was the case”. One of the most surprising aspects of the match was the change in momentum for the two-time slam winner.
When Naomi Osaka wins the first set, chances are she’ll continue dominating to secure the overall match win. The loss to Su-wei broke her 63-match streak with that kind of kick start. “I know, it's depressing.
I know that record. I was thinking about it right after I lost. “I mean, I think eventually I was going to lose after I won the first set. But I feel like today I got ahead of myself. I feel like there were sometimes when I was returning her serve in the second set, I felt myself relax a bit because I thought that I could be able to serve it out anyways.
“So, I think there's just moments like that that I have to, like, figure out how to not -- just not -- wait. How do I say? Just focus more, fight for every point, not think that I can just turn it on and off”.
Since winning the Australian Open, Naomi Osaka has changed coaches, switching from Sascha Bajin, who helped her get to those two slams and Serena Williams’ former hitting partner. The world No. 1 says that it will take time for the new coaching relationship to become seamless.
“Yeah, I mean, for me, I think it's interesting whenever you change coaches because there's always an adjustment time. This is the second tournament I've been with Jermaine [Jenkins]. I think that I played pretty good today actually, if I get over the fact that I lost.
I think I played a lot of good rallies. Of course, there were some shots that I tried to hit a winner on too early. I just do that sometimes. It's nothing to be negative about. Yeah, I think definitely we have a lot of ideas that we need to swap, so we really need to talk about that”.
But it wasn’t a complete disappointment. Naomi Osaka was also awarded keys to Miami-Dade County. The honor was presented by Commissioner Jean Monestime and Senator Oscar Braynon, who recognized the reining Australian Open winner for her community service in South Florida.