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“I’m trying to embrace my mistakes” – Naomi Osaka more relaxed as unforgiving clay season begins
After reviving her season by reaching the Miami final, a more relaxed and easy-going Naomi Osaka has a few surprises in store in Madrid
Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is hoping to be more easy on herself as her clay-court season gets underway, telling the media in Madrid that she has changed a few things in her game.
Osaka needed a wildcard into the main draw of the Madrid Open, the first big WTA event of the season on clay because her ranking at the time of the entry cut-off (six weeks ago) was too low. Having regained some of her lost mojo by reaching the Miami final and moving back into the world’s top 40, things are looking brighter for the 24-year-old.
And she hopes it will continue to be that way when she makes her 2022 clay debut against the Russian Anastasia Potapova, when she aims to showcase some new elements in her game.
“I changed a couple of things,” Osaka said in Madrid. “I think you guys will be able to tell when I play. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I would say I did change a couple of things to suit myself more for clay. “
“I’m trying to embrace my mistakes compared to the previous years as well, so I’m not that hard on myself. If I make a mistake or if I don’t move up to the ball fast enough – because I find on clay you actually have to move much more – but if I do stuff like that I just tell myself not to be mad. I’m still a student so I should try to keep learning. So I’m really excited to play my first match.”
“I stole one of the things that he did and I’ve been practising it recently”: Osaka taking inspiration from Nadal
Naomi Osaka is also a keen student of the game and the Japanese player said she has been taking notes by watching clay-court G.O.A.T. Rafael Nadal and some of today’s other top clay-court players.
“I think I stole one of the things that he (Rafa) did and I’ve been practising it recently. It’ll either go really good or really bad. There’s like no in between. But I think as I’ve been doing it, it’s been going pretty well. I know that every kid growing up playing tennis in the world has pretended to be Nadal at least once,” she said.
“Honestly I’ve been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I’m the type of person that learns really fast if I see it up close, and honestly it’s a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them. I’ve kind of wanted to see [Carlos] Alcaraz, so it’d be cool to watch everyone practice.”
In recent times, Osaka has talked often about resetting her expectations in the new season and focusing on enjoying herself on and off the court. And she is keeping her goals smaller as well, which includes reaching the semi-finals of either Madrid or Rome – the two big clay-court events heading into the French Open.
“I always say I want to have a good time, which is true, even off the court I want to have a good time,” Osaka added. “I’m trying to take it one tournament at a time. Of course winning matches and leading up into the French, I want to get to the semis of either here or Rome, hopefully win. But I’m going to set a little goal first.”