French Open

Osaka knocked out in French Open first round, unsure of Wimbledon

Reuters
Osaka knocked out in French Open first round, unsure of Wimbledon

OUT. Naomi Osaka struggles early at Roland Garros.

Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka exits early as she never looked comfortable on her least favorite surface

PARIS, France – Japan’s Naomi Osaka crashed out of the French Open in a 7-5, 6-4 first-round loss to American Amanda Anisimova on Monday, May 23, a year after her dramatic withdrawal from the claycourt Grand Slam tournament amid mental health issues.

Up against 27th seed Anisimova, four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka never looked comfortable on her least favorite surface as she struggled to control her powerful game.

The first three games all went against serve in a tense start but Anisimova held to go 3-1 ahead.

A backhand error by Anisimova allowed Osaka to level for 3-3, but a double fault in the 11th game allowed Anisimova to move 6-5 up and she held serve to love to take the set.

Anisimova broke decisively for 4-3 in the second set as Osaka again double faulted game.

After a couple of match points went begging, Anisimova finished it off with a stunning backhand winner down the line.

Osaka withdrew from the tournament in 2021 after boycotting post-match media duties for mental health reasons.

In the buildup to last year’s French Open, Osaka said she would not attend the obligatory news conferences for players after matches as they impacted her mental wellbeing.

The Japanese, who at that time revealed she had been suffering from depression for almost three years, returned to competitive tennis at the Tokyo Olympics after the saga cast a spotlight on players’ post-match media duties.

Roland Garros organizers conceded they could “do better” on mental health this year.

Reduced motivation

Osaka’s participation in Wimbledon was also in doubt on Monday after the Japanese player said the decision by the sport’s authorities to strip the tournament of ranking points had reduced her motivation to play.

Wimbledon last week had its ranking points taken away by the men’s ATP and women’s WTA after the grass court major opted to exclude players from Russia and Belarus because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I would say the decision is kind of affecting, like, my mentality going into grass, like I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to go there,” Osaka told a news conference after her first-round defeat at the French Open.

“I would love to go just to get some experience on the grass court, but like at the same time, for me, it’s kind of like – I don’t want to say pointless, no pun intended, but I’m the type of player that gets motivated by… seeing my ranking go up.”

The move by the ATP and WTA was met with “deep disappointment” by the All England Lawn Tennis Club who repeated their stance that the ban was the only viable option under British government guidance.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also said it will not grant ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events.

The AELTC decision to impose the suspension on Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s championships is the first time players have been excluded on grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were banned. – Rappler.com