Despite loss at French, Naomi Osaka's clay season showing positive vector


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Despite loss at French, Naomi Osaka's clay season showing positive vector

Naomi Osaka is one of a handful of Top 20 players already out of the French Open in the first week, having lost her third round match to Kateřina Siniaková, 6-4, 6-2. She will join the world No. 2 (and Rome Open winner) Karolína Plíšková, No.

4 (and Madrid Open champion) Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitová, Elina Svitolina, and Serena Williams. Those are just the Top 10 names not making it to the fourth round. Osaka is the top seed out of those famous names not advancing to the second week, going out in the same round as she did last year.

However, she will get to keep her No. 1 ranking, despite the third round loss. The Japanese player was striving to achieve the calender year slam, after winning the last two grand slams in a row (U.S. and Australia). Osaka admitted that perhaps the pressure had become too much for her.

"I think I was overthinking this calendar slam," she said in her press conference after the loss to Siniakova. "For me this is something that I have wanted to do forever, but I think I have to think about it like: If it was that easy, everyone would have done it."

Naomi Osaka is still seeking a WTA title since winning the Australian Open at the beginning of the year. After her second breakthrough slam, the 21 year-old switched coaches, and closed out the first quarter hard court season with early exits in Dubai, Indian Wells, and Miami.

However, Osaka seemed to find more of her groove once clay season began. She raced out of the gate at the Stuttgart Open, powering through to the semifinals, and following this up with quarterfinal performances at Madrid and Rome.

"I haven't been able to relax since I got here," Osaka said about the French Open. "This tournament I have had a feeling that was different to every other Grand Slam that I have played - because usually I find it very freeing and fun, and this time around I was kind of tense the entire time...

I have been tense even when I'm sleeping." The Japanese wunderkid is leaving Roland Garros, having disrupted her 16 straight-match winning streak in grand slams. She will likely continue to work out her new coaching relationship with Jermaine Jenkins, after having gotten rid of Sascha Bajin, Serena Williams's former hitting partner.

Despite the French Open loss, she is still leaving clay season with greater success than the beginning hard court quarter. "I feel like saying that 'I'm depressed' is a very strong statement," Osaka told the press.

"Because I felt that way before, and it's not as extreme as that. So I would just say I'm very disappointed in how I played, and I wish I could have done better... I think it's a natural part of life, especially if you train super hard for moments like these, and then you don't perform how you want to."

Osaka is taking a lot of positives from her experience during clay this year. "It's weird, but I think me losing is probably the best thing that could have happened," she said. "Results-wise, I think this is definitely the best clay season I have had.

Semis, two quarters, and, like, I didn't lose in the first round. "I can't really say too many negative things about this... we can only look towards the future." The jury's still out on if she'll achieve the next slam, Wimbledon, where she's never gotten past the third round, although she got to the semis at Nottingham last year.

She already walks away having achieved a more successful clay season than last year. However, once hard court season starts up again this summer, Naomi Osaka is sure to be a major factor and the clear favorite to defend her U.S. Open title.