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Sport The Quiet Confidence of Naomi Osaka

16:05  22 january  2020
16:05  22 january  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Naomi Osaka , the reigning Australian Open champion, was 14-1 entering this year’s first Grand Slam tournament after losing in the United States Open.Credit Osaka had spoken into a microphone what she has already made clear with her racket over the past two years: Underneath her quiet demeanor

Osaka had spoken into a microphone what she has already made clear with her racket over the past two years: Underneath her quiet demeanor, she has an assured confidence that has helped carry her to two Grand Slam titles. She may be soft-spoken in public, but she is also steely and determined.

Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach © Thomson Reuters Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka in action during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

MELBOURNE, Australia — As the reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka opened her season earlier this month, she checked herself as she expressed her goals for the rest of the year.

“I think just to try as hard as I can every match,” Osaka said. “Because for me, when I feel like I do that, I somehow end up winning the match, no matter what.” As she heard herself, her eyes widened. “Oh, that sounds really arrogant,” she said, clearly embarrassed.

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Naomi Osaka (大坂 なおみ Japanese pronunciation: [o̞ːsäkä näo̞mʲi], Ōsaka Naomi , born October 16, 1997) is a professional tennis player who represents Japan.

Naomi Osaka , the reigning US champion, has endured a difficult season but is ready for the spotlight on her return to Flushing Meadows.

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Osaka had spoken into a microphone what she has already made clear with her racket over the past two years: Underneath her quiet demeanor, she has an assured confidence that has helped carry her to two Grand Slam titles. She may be soft-spoken in public, but she is also steely and determined.

Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Hannah Mckay © Thomson Reuters Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

Osaka, 22, showed that mettle most unmistakably during the 2018 United States Open final against Serena Williams, closing out a title even as Williams got into heated arguments with the umpire over penalties and the crowd booed what they felt was unfair treatment for the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

She followed up that victory by winning the Australian Open last year. Now, as the No. 3 seed, Osaka has beaten 42nd-ranked Zheng Saisai in a second-round match, 6-2, 6-4, and she will face the 15-year-old phenom Coco Gauff in the next round.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Naomi Osaka of Japan signs autographs for fans after winning her Women's Singles second round match against Saisai Zheng of China on day three of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) © 2020 Getty Images MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Naomi Osaka of Japan signs autographs for fans after winning her Women's Singles second round match against Saisai Zheng of China on day three of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) Osaka’s first attempt at a Grand Slam title defense ended in the fourth round last year at the U.S. Open, where she lost to Belinda Bencic, an opponent who had beaten her twice previously in 2019. “There were moments where I accepted defeat and I was O.K. with it,” Osaka said this week. “After the match, I was just so disgusted with myself, because when I was a kid, I would dream to be in that position so I could fight to go to the finals and win it. But for me to like sit there and think that it’s O.K. to like lose in the fourth round is like kind of pathetic.”

It was after that match that Osaka told herself she would fight for every point. She entered the Australian Open with a 14-1 record since then, winning titles in Beijing and her birthplace of Osaka, Japan, in the fall. Her lone defeat since the U.S. Open came against second-ranked Karolina Pliskova in the Brisbane semifinals earlier this month, a match Pliskova won in three sets after fending off a match point for Osaka.

Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Hannah Mckay © Thomson Reuters Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 22, 2020 Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts during the match against China's Saisai Zheng REUTERS/Hannah Mckay On the court, Osaka has thrived by turning one of her weaknesses into a strength. A shoulder injury forced her out of the year-end championships in Shenzhen, China, but since then she has been hitting more aces than usual, maximizing her serves to make the most of each use of her shoulder. “I feel like every serve that I serve should count,” she said, “and it’s been working out really well.”

She also arrived in Melbourne with a new guide: the coach Wim Fissette, a Belgian who coached Kim Clijsters and Angelique Kerber to Grand Slam titles, and also worked with other top players, including Simona Halep.

Fissette said Osaka set herself apart by setting her goals so high. “I’ve worked with many top-10 players but there’s a big difference in ambition; you would expect it all to be the same, but it’s not,” Fissette said.

a person wearing a hat: Osaka beat Marie Bouzkova in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. © Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times Osaka beat Marie Bouzkova in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday. “With a player like Naomi, you go to tournaments to win them, not to play finals or semifinals,” Fissette added. “That’s the ambition, and I love that ambition. I love working under pressure.”

Fissette said he found Osaka to be more tactical than he had expected. And while others would try to avoid pressure at the top of the sport, Osaka has embraced her status as a favorite, he said. “Some players, they really need to be an underdog,” Fissette said. “Others, are like her; she doesn’t want to be in an underdog position, because she feels she’s the best out there.”

a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: Naomi Osaka, the reigning Australian Open champion, was 14-1 entering this year’s first Grand Slam tournament after losing in the United States Open. © Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times Naomi Osaka, the reigning Australian Open champion, was 14-1 entering this year’s first Grand Slam tournament after losing in the United States Open. By hiring Fissette, Osaka broke up a pattern of hiring people who had previously worked with the Williams sisters. And Fissette has coached players to five wins over Serena Williams in the last 11 years, more than any individual player has earned against her on the court.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Naomi Osaka of Japan serves during her Women's Singles second round match against Saisai Zheng of China on day three of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) © 2020 Getty Images MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Naomi Osaka of Japan serves during her Women's Singles second round match against Saisai Zheng of China on day three of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) Osaka has looked up to Williams since she started in the sport as a girl (“I said, ‘I want to be like her,’” Osaka said in 2018 as she described a report she had done on Williams in third grade). Last week, Osaka posted a photo of herself with Williams on Instagram as they sat together during an exhibition for Australian fire relief. She captioned it: “me and my mom lol.”

Williams, who has not always taken kindly to the young players who have made star turns by beating her at Grand Slams, responded with heart emojis to Osaka, whom she first met in 2014. “I have always had some sort of admiration for her, because I met her when she was super, super young,” Williams said of Osaka. “It was really cool to see her grow from that age to No. 1 and multi-Grand-Slam champion. I thought the picture was cute, so I felt like I should like it and comment on it — definitely not the mom, though.”

Naomi Osaka swinging a racket at a ball: Osaka training with Coach Wim Fissette on Tuesday. © Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times Osaka training with Coach Wim Fissette on Tuesday.

Osaka said she still felt star-struck around Williams and other tennis stars, and characterized her interactions with Williams as one-directional. “I’m going to have to give you a briefing of how I am as a person,” Osaka said during the Australian Open draw when asked about Williams. “I don’t talk to people; I just stare at them from a distance. That’s lesson No. 1. Lesson No. 2 is that if I were to talk to Serena, she talks to me and I get surprised that she talks to me, and then I don’t talk back.”

One space where Osaka has been increasingly comfortable expressing herself is in documenting her fashion choices on Instagram. “It’s really weird because people have been telling me they really like my fashion sense,” Osaka said. “Honestly, I’m very sorry, but that’s way more of a compliment than when people tell me they like my tennis.”

Evans set to skip Tokyo Olympics .
Dan Evans is set to reject the chance to represent Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics. © Getty Britain's Dan Evans is set to reject the chance to play at this summer's Tokyo Olympics The British No 1 is currently at a career-high ranking of 32 in the world, which would comfortably be good enough to earn him a place in the Japanese capital, but he is not willing to disrupt his schedule.The Olympic tennis event does not carry ranking points or prize money and overlaps with the start of the US hard-court season building up to the US Open.

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