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Beaten Osaka emphasises the positives: “I’m not God. I can’t win every match”

The Japanese said she is proud of how she played and handled herself on the court despite her defeat by Amanda Anisimova in round three

Naomi Osaka presser R3 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Naomi Osaka‘s hopes of winning a third Australian Open title were ended by Amanda Anisimova in the third round on Friday but as she tries to take more perspective on her game and give herself less of a hard time, the Japanese says she has plenty to feel good about.

Happy to be back on court again, seemingly in a much better place than she was in 2021 when her mental health issues came to the fore, Osaka played some superb tennis and had two match points in the third set, only to lose out 10-5 in the deciding tiebreak to an inspired Anisimova.

“I’m not God, I can’t win every match, you know,” Osaka said. “So I just have to take that into account and know that it would be nice to win the tournament, but that’s really special, you know, and I can’t think of myself to try to win the Grand Slam at the start of the year every time.

“For me, I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I’m really happy with — you know, of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.”

It might seem odd for a former world No 1 and four-time Grand Slam champion to be speaking in that way but for Osaka, just being back on court has been a success.

Her well-publicised mental health issues in 2021 meant she hardly played on Tour and she’ll fall to around No 84 in the world rankings after her loss to Anisimova, the American 20-year-old who reminded everyone the talent she has, just under three years after she reached the semi-finals at the French Open.

Naomi Osaka leaves court R3 AO 2022
AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Calmness on court a good sign for the future

Osaka’s body language often tells its own story but against Anisimova, despite the stress of the situation, she stayed much calmer than she has done at times and says she is ready to accept that things won’t always go her way.

“I also know that there are days that I’m going to have bad days, and there are days that I’m going to have great days,” she said. “It’s always random, and I never know, but no matter what happens for me, I just want to leave the court knowing that I fought for every point.

“Today, of course there were things I felt I could improve on, but even with that, I had two match points, and I think that’s something that I can, you know, be proud of myself for.”

Four months on from her US Open experience, where she tearfully said she would be taking a break from the Tour, Osaka has cut a very different figure in Melbourne, a good sign for the future.

“I would definitely say I’m proud of myself for this,” she said. “Though to me it didn’t feel like a short amount of time. It felt like, you know, ages ago. But yeah, I think this for me is the biggest step, even though I lost. I think I was really focused throughout the entire match, and I didn’t have a dip. So that’s really good, you know.

“Hopefully as the season continues, I’ll be able to keep this up, and get even better at it.”

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