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?



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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Maria Sakkari sets up quarter final match against Caroline Garcia in Tokyo



This year’s Guadalajara Open champion Maria Sakkari beat Misaki Doi 6-3 6-1 in 65 minutes at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Sakkari hit 25 winners and did not face a break point to extend her winning streak to six consecutive matches. Doi played her last match of her career. 


Sakkari paid tribute to Doi in the post-match interview. 

“I don’t want to talk about me today. It was an honour to play against Misaki in her last ever professional match. You deserve to enjoy life, enjoy yourself, have some fun. We know how tough the  tennis life is. So take some time, and I am sure you will find a way to find something special again in your life. You had an amazing career, so congratulations”, said Sakkari. 

Sakkari set up a match against Caroline Garcia, who beat Anhelina Kalinina 6-4 6-3. 

Garcia fired 29 winners, including 10 aces, and dropped just seven first serve points. The French player raced out to a 3-0 lead, but Kalinina pulled back on serve to draw level to 3-3 and held three break points, but Garcia saved them to hold serve to hold serve at deuce to take a 4-3 lead. Garcia earned a break in the 10th game to close out the first set 6-4. 

Garcia broke serve in the eighth game of the second set after Kalinina hit her drop shot. Garcia served out by holding serve at love with consecuve aces. 

Former Roland Garros semifinalist Daria Kasatkina beat Despina Papamichail 6-4 6-4 in 2 hours. Kasatkina went up a 4-1 lead with a double break in the second set. Papamichail pulled both breaks back to draw level to 4-4. Kasatkina won the final two games to seal the second set 6-4 setting up a quarter final match against Jessica Pegula. Two-time Tokyo semifinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Linda Noskova 6-3 4-6 6-0 to reach the quarter final. 

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Marcos Giron battled past Stan Wawrinka in Astana



Marcos Giron came back to beat Stan Wawrinka 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10-8) in their first head-to-head match to reach the second round at the Astana Open. 


Both players went on serve and never faced a break point in the whole match. Giron earned an early mini-break to take a 5-4 lead in the tie-break of the third set. Wawrinka pulled back on serve to draw level to 5-5. Giron sealed the second mini-break to win the third set 8-6. The US player has won 20 tour-level matches this year. 

Giron set up a second round match against either Dominic Thiem or Juan Pablo Varillas. 

Frenchman Adrian Mannarino overcame his compatriot Arthur Rinderknech 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to clinch his 33rd tour-level win of the season. Rinderknech earned an early break in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Mannarino broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Mannarino earned an early mini-break to open up a 4-2 lead. Rinderknech pulled back on serve for 3-4. Mannarino sealed the first set 7-4 with a second mini-break. Mannarino broke serve in the second and eighth game to close out the second set 6-3. 

Mannarino set up a second round match against Alibek Kachmazov, who beat Corentin Moutet 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in two hours and seven minutes. 

Jurij Rodionov came back from one set down to beat Gregoire Barrere 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5). Barrere earned two breaks in the second and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. Rodionov broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead in the second set. Barrere pulled one break back in the eighth game and held his serve to claw his way back to 4-5, but Rodionov served out at 30 in the tenth game. Rodionov fended off two match points on serve at 4-5 in the third set before winning the tie-break 7-5 with a mini-break on the 12th point. Egor Gerasimov beat Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7-6 (7-5) 6-3. 

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Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open



Image via WTA twitter

Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat. 


The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory. 

Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.

“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added. 

Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court. 

Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. 

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