Friday, January 21, 2022

Naomi Osaka Will ‘Take A Break’ From Tennis After Crashing Out Of US Open In Third Round

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A tearful Naomi Osaka said she does not know when she will play again, raising more concern about her mental health struggles on Friday after an emotional display during a third round defeat at the US Open.

Osaka, who has been a picture of composure on the court during her career, erupted in frustration during a 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-4 loss to 18-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez that ended her Open title defence.

The four-time Grand Slam champion, who quit the French Open earlier this year after saying she would not attend press conferences for her mental health, did not try to dodge the media on Friday, answering questions until breaking into tears.

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She said: “This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry.

“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.

“How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

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Asked what caused the defeat, she added: “I don’t think it was her serve because I’ve been able to return pretty well against people that served better. I don’t think it’s the occasion because I’ve been in this situation before.

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“I guess we’re all dealing with some stuff, but I know that I’m dealing with some stuff.”

Leylah Fernandez had made it a night to remember for the 18-year-olds at the US Open as she beat the defending champion.

Arriving on Arthur Ashe Stadium after Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz had just seen off men’s No 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the teenager followed suit by producing a stunning upset.

Osaka served for the match in the second set, only to suffer a 15-minute capitulation that saw Fernandez fight back to win 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-4.

It was the biggest win of the world No 73’s career and one that sets up a fourth-round meeting with 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

The Japanese was playing in her first grand slam since pulling out of Wimbledon but she looked in decent fettle for the majority of the match, stealing the first set with a break at 5-5 and then putting herself in position to do the same in the second.

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But this time Fernandez broke straight back at 5-6 and that is where the match turned on its head as Osaka lost her way over a defining 15-minute period.

The Canadian raised her level, but Osaka’s radar was off and splurge of unforced errors saw her lose the second-set tiebreak.

That carried over into the early part of the deciding set as Fernandez immediately broke, with Osaka smashing her racket and later receiving a code violation for hitting the ball into the crowd.

The Japanese, the 2018 and 2020 champion at Flushing Meadows, regained her composure, but Fernandez was not fazed by the situation and saw out a famous win.

New York acclaimed a new star as 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the fourth round of the US Open.

The Spaniard has already been hailed as Rafael Nadal’s successor and he seized his chance on the big stage in superb fashion with a 6-3 4-6 7-6 (2) 0-6 7-6 (5) victory.

Naomi Osaka

Photo Credit: Getty

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