Ahead Of Clay Campaign Naomi Osaka Draws Inspiration From Nadal And Hails His Compatriot Alcaraz - UBITENNIS
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Ahead Of Clay Campaign Naomi Osaka Draws Inspiration From Nadal And Hails His Compatriot Alcaraz

The tennis star is yet to shine on the clay but is that about to change?

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2021 04 30 MADRID - MUTUA MADRID OPEN DE TENIS 2021. WTA Naomi Osaka of Japan vs Misaki Doi of Japan

A candidly speaking Naomi Osaka heads into the clay swing with a fresh mindset, a new technical approach and the temptation to implement a certain skill she learned from watching Rafael Nadal.

In recent years Osaka has established herself as one of the biggest names in women’s tennis by claiming a quartet of Grand Slam titles and spending a total of 25 weeks as world No.1. However, the clay has always been an achilles heel for the Japanese player who is currently ranked 36th in the world. She is yet to play a Tour final on the surface or go beyond the third round at the French Open. To date, her best run at a WTA clay-court event was reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 Stuttgart Open.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old is a player who isn’t deterred when faced with adversity. She is currently coached by Wim Fissette who oversaw Simona Halep’s run to the 2014 French Open final and has worked with a string of other high-profile names, including Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber.

I changed a couple of things,” Osaka revealed during media day at the Madrid Open on Wednesday. “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.”

Osaka is keeping coy about what might be in store when she returns to action at the Caja Magica, venue of the Madrid Open. Although she hints she may deploy a tactic which is commonly used by Nadal. As to what that is, she is keeping silent. It is understandable as to why she chose to draw inspiration from the Spaniard who has won more ATP titles on clay (62) than any other player in history.

“I think I stole one of the things that he did and I’ve been practicing it recently,” she said. “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.
“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.”

Madrid isn’t like other clay events on the Tour due to its high altitude which makes the ball travel faster than usual. Therefore the theory is that the conditions favour the heavier and more powerful hitters such as Osaka. Although she has only managed to reach the last eight in one out of three main draw appearances.

“I know that every kid growing up playing tennis in the world has pretended to be Nadal at least once.” Osaka continued.

Osaka’s admiration for Spanish tennis doesn’t solely focus on Nadal. Another player to have caught her attention is rising star Carlos Alcaraz who has enjoyed a sensational 2022 so far. The 18-year-old became one of the youngest Masters 1000 champions in history at the Miami Open and has also won two ATP 500 events. This week he officially broke into the world’s top 10 to become the youngest man to do so since Nadal back in 2005.

“I feel like he’s genuinely made everyone excited about the ATP and I haven’t seen that in a very long time,” Osaka said of the teenager.
“I’m not even really thinking about his age, like every time someone brings up his age, I’m like, ‘Oh wow, I forget, that’s so cool.’
“I think just his game style, just how pumped he is, how I feel like I’m watching him learn with every tournament.
“I don’t know what his ranking was last year here, but I’ve watched almost every tournament that he’s played, the US Open when he played (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and just to see the growth I think is really exciting for everyone.”

The former world No.1 knows what it is like to be in the media limelight at a young age. Before her 20th birthday she had won the Indian Wells title and two Grand Slam tournaments. It has been a roller-coaster journey for Osaka who has had to deal with problems concerning her mental health in recent years.

Fortunately the tennis star seems to be back on track and hungry to improve further on her ranking. In Madrid she will begin her campaign against the dangerous Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova who won the Istanbul Open last week.

“I always say I want to have a good time, which is true, even off the court I want to have a good time. I’m trying to take it one tournament at a time. Of course winning matches and leading up into the French (Open), I want to get to the semis of either here (in Madrid) or Rome, hopefully win. But I’m going to set a little goal first.” Osaka concludes.

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Roberto Bautista Agut wins his milestone 400th match on the ATP Tour

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Roberto Bautista Agut came back from one set down to beat Australian Open doubles finalist Andrea Vavassori 4-6 6-3 6-1 after 2 hours and 1 minute at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. 

Vavassori earned an early break in the first game. The Italian player earned three break points in the seventh game, but Bautista Agut saved them. The Spanish player broke straight back in the eighth game. Vavassori broke again in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and saved two break points before closing out the first set 6-4 on his second set point. 

Both players went on serve in the first four games of the second set. Vavassori earned a break point in the fifth game, but he did not convert it. Bautista Agut broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and did not face any break points to win the second set 6-3. 

Bautista Agut broke three times to cruise through to a 6-1. 

Bautista Agut reached the 400th milestone win on the ATP Tour.  The Spanish player has become the 13th active player with at least 400 ATP Tour wins. He achieved 20 wins against members of the top 10, ten wins against top 5 players and four against world number 1s. Bautista Agut is one of the nine players, who have beaten Novak Djokovic as World number 1 more than twice. 

“For me it’s just a number. The important thing is that I have done great work over these years, that I have a very consistent career, a career that I can feel proud of “, said Bautista Agut. 

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Martina Trevisan beats Naomi Osaka to reach the second round in Rouen

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Martina Trevisan upset former world number 1 Naomi Osaka 6-4 6-2 in the opening round of the Open Capfinances Rouen Metropole. 

Osaka has played her first clay-court match since Roland Garros 2022, where she lost to Amanda Anisimova. The Japanese player has not won a match on clay since beating Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the Madrid Mutua Open in 2022. She helped Japan beat Kazakhstan in the Billie Jean King Cup. 

Trevisan reached the quarter final in 2020 and the semifinal in 2022 at Roland Garros. The former world number 18 won her only title in Rabat in 2022. She reached the quarter finals of the Zaragoza ITF 100 tournament. 

Both players traded breaks in the first two games. Osaka earned two break points at 3-2 and three more chances at 4-3, but she was not able to convert them. Trevisan broke serve in the ninth game following a series of forehand errors. 

Trevisan broke twice in the third and seventh games and served out the win on her first match point. 

Sixteen-year-old Mirra Andreeva beat Elina Avanesyan 7-5 6-4 in 1 hour and 41 minutes to reach her second quarter final of 2024. 

Andreeva went up a break in the seventh game, but Avanesyan pulled back on serve to draw level to 4-4. Andreeva broke for the second time in the 11th game to win the second set 7-5. Andreeva broke in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead. Avanesyan converted her third break-back point in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Andreeva broke serve at love in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Avanesyan broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Andreeva broke for the third time in the ninth game and served out the win on her second match point after saving two break points. 

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Linda Noskova cruises past Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart to clinch her third top 10 win

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Linda Noskova cruised past number 8 seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-1 on her debut at this tournament in just 68 minutes to reach the second round at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

Noskova has claimed her third top 10 win this year. She beat Iga Swiatek in the third round of the Australian Open en route to her first Grand Slam quarter final and Maria Sakkari in Doha. 

Noskova raced out to a 5-1 lead with two breaks of serve in the first and third games. Ostapenko pulled one break back in the eighth game for 3-5. Noskova earned three set points in the ninth game with a return winner and converted her first chance to clinch the first set 6-3. 

Noskova broke twice in the second and fourth games to cruise through the second set 6-1. 

Noskova converted all her five break points. 

Marketa Vondrousova beat Donna Vekic 6-4 6-3 in 1 hour and 26 minutes to reach the second round. The reigning Wimbledon champion converted four of her eight break points. 

Vondrousova went down 2-4 down in the first round, but she came back by winning four games to clinch the first set 6-4. Vondrousova broke in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead. The Czech player earned three game points to lead 4-1, but Vekic pulled back on serve at 3-2 with a passing winner. Vondrousova earned another break to take a 5-3 lead after a drop-shot misfire by Vekic and served out the win with two consecutive aces. Vondrousova now leads 2-1 in her head-to-head matches against Vekic. 

Elise Mertens overcame Tatjana Maria 6-1 4-6 6-0 to set up the first clash of her career against world number 1 Iga Swiatek. 

“At the age of 22, it’s unbelievable what Swiatek has already achieved. Definitely in the future, she will achieve a lot more. She is a bit like an all-court, all-around player, so you don’t really find a lot of weaknesses. That’s why she is world number 1”, said Mertens. 

This year’s Abu Dhabi champion Jasmine Paolini cruised past her doubles partner Sara Errani 6-1 6-0 with three breaks of serve in each set. 

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