“Try to Play My Natural Way”: Naomi Osaka Upon Earning Her First Clay Court Victory in Two Years at Mutua Madrid Open

Published 05/01/2021, 7:59 AM EDT
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 10: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates a point in her quarter final match against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during day five of the 2020 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 10, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)


The Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, who has last played a match on clay two years ago at the French Open has made a solid return to the red turf. She defeated compatriot Misaki Doi in the first round of the WTA Mutua Madrid Open 7-5,6-2. 

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Osaka fought hard to clinch the first set

Osaka struggled to find her foot on clay initially as Doi made winners look easy and moved elegantly on-court. But, the aggression from Doi didn’t last for long as she made frequent errors and gave an opening to Osaka to bounce back in the set. 

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Even though she was not serving at her best, Osaka managed to do just enough to clinch the first set by a whisker. During the initial moments of the match, it appeared as if Doi would take the opening set comfortably. 

Naomi Osaka of Japan returns the ball during her Women’s Singles finals match against Serena Williams of the United States on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The fightback in the first set helped Osaka command the second as she started to hit more freely, finding incredible angles on the forehand cross-court. 

The four-time grand slam champion clinched the second set 6-2. Speaking to the press post her victory, Osaka revealed her goals for the clay season this year. She emphasized the need to play her natural game on clay instead of changing her game to adjust to the surface.

“I try to play my natural way. I would say if I start thinking about grinding too much, I become a bit of a pusher and it’s not really good for me. Of course, you want to adapt to the clay and do things that are beneficial, but hopefully, I don’t change too much”, Osaka explained. 

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Naomi Osaka is all praise for compatriot Misaki Doi

The Japanese number one is all praise for her compatriot Misaki Doi and believes that the latter deserves to be ranked higher owing to the pace with which she hits the ball.  

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You obviously want to play well against a player that’s from the same country. I never really know what to expect because I feel like Doi always plays better when I play against her, so it’s a bit tough to manage to control my emotions”, Osaka said. 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 07: Naomi Osaka of Japan plays a backhand in her match against Maria Sakkari of Greece during day two of the 2020 Brisbane International at Pat Rafter Arena on January 07, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

This victory should add a lot of confidence to Osaka’s expectations on clay this year. With her game tailor-made to hard courts, she will have to mold her game to suit the needs of clay and grass courts. 

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With the looming competition, it appears demanding for Osaka to have a breakthrough season this year on the red turf, but she can add vital ranking points if she manages to clinch a title and goes deep at the French Open

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Sagar Ashtakoula

380 articles

Sagar Ashtakoula is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the sport since 2007. Having developed an interest in creating content, he mixed his passion for writing with his love for tennis for 2 years at SportsKeeda before joining the tennis team at EssentiallySports.

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