She has been training in the Caja Mágica for several days, but Naomi Osaka does not want to put extra pressure on herself. It has been almost two years since she last played on clay, a surface on which the Japanese player is still looking for her first title.
The world number two spoke to the press during the Mutua Madrid Open Media Day and explained her formula for winning tournaments. “I do better when I don’t stress myself out and tell myself that I have to win a tournament”, admitted Osaka. “But it’s really hard to fight that feeling when you really want something”.
The champion of this year’s Australian Open, Osaka needed to rest after the Miami Open -where she bowed out in the quarters to Maria Sakkari- to disconnect and recharge her batteries for the clay swing, which gets underway in the Caja Mágica.
“At the end of the day, I haven’t played a clay tournament in two years. I haven’t touched clay in two years either, so… I’m just going in here just trying to have fun”, she said honestly.
Osaka, who reached the quarter-finals in Madrid in 2019 (lost to Belinda Bencic), will open against a qualifier and Karolina Pliskova, with whom she enjoys a positive 3-2 head-to-head, possibly awaits in the quarters.
However, the Japanese player is keeping her mind focused on the present. “I do know that I think I’m hitting the ball pretty well. I can only hope that for now that’s good enough”.
Kobe Bryant, inspiration for handling pressure
She is one of the most popular sports stars in the world, a position that brings with it a lot of added pressure. Osaka revealed that the person who helped her most with handling the media and the pressure of the spotlight was the late Kobe Bryant.
“He helped me out a lot with that pressure side of media. I think I learned a lot from him”.