Teens Shock Defending Champ Osaka, No. 3 Tsitsipas At US Open

Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 3, 2021. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

 

Defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan and Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas were both ousted from the US Open by 18-year-olds in epic stunners on Friday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka was shocked by Canadian left-hander Leylah Fernandez 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz upset French Open runner-up Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 0-6, 7-6 (7/5).

“Honestly the Alcaraz match gave me motivation and gave me the energy to do the same,” Fernandez said. “I saw his match and I saw the way he won and I’m like ‘I’m going to do that next now.'”

After the upset, defending champion Osaka announced she was taking a break from playing tennis.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 03: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain celebrates after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during his Men’s Singles third round match on Day Five at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 03, 2021 in New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

 

“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” Osaka said, wiping away tears. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”

Osaka, who had won her prior 16 Grand Slam matches, was foiled in a bid for her third US Open crown in four years and the first back-to-back title since Serena Williams in 2014.

Alcaraz is the youngest man in the US Open fourth round since 17-year-old American Michael Chang in 1989, and at any Slam since Ukraine’s Andrei Medvedev in the 1992 French Open.

“Incredible. Incredible feeling for me,” Alcaraz said. “This victory means a lot to me. It’s the best match of my career, the best win.

“To beat Stefanos Tsitsipas is a dream come true and to win here is even more special for me.”

Osaka had a major meltdown on court during the final moments of the second set after she was unable to hold serve for the victory.

“From the very beginning, right before the match, I knew I was able to win,” Fernandez said. “Thanks to New York fans. They helped me get the win.”

Osaka, who hadn’t played since Monday thanks to a second-round walkover, took the first set in 37 minutes on her sixth ace.

But she was broken in the 12th game of the second set, an errant forehand sending her to a tie-breaker.

That began a sequence of repeated racquet smashings as she was humbled in the tie-break to force a third set.

“I wanted to stay on court a little longer,” said Fernandez, who turns 19 on Monday. “One hour was just not enough for me.”

Fernandez then hit a forehand winner to break Osaka to start the third set.

Osaka saved two break points to hold in the third game and from there both held to the finish, which came after two hours and four minutes, sending Fernandez against German 16th seed Angelique Kerber in her first Grand Slam fourth round appearance.

“It’ll be a battle,” Fernandez said. “We’re just going to have fun. I’ll put on a show like I did tonight.”

Fernandez, the daughter of an Ecuadoran father and Filipino-Canadian mother, won her first WTA title in March at Monterrey. She had never beaten so high-ranked a rival as third-rated Osaka and the same was true for Alcaraz when he sent home the men’s world number three.

 

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez celebrates after winning her 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 3, 2021. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

– ‘It’s kind of bitter’ –
Alcaraz became the youngest man to beat a top-three player at the US Open since the rankings began in 1973.

World number 55 Alcaraz next faces 141st-ranked German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk, who ousted Swiss Henri Laaksonen 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.

Alcaraz won his first ATP title at Umag in July, becoming the tour’s youngest champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in 2008 at Delray Beach.

The teen nicknamed “Next Nadal” was the crowd darling at Arthur Ashe Stadium, with roars erupting as he blasted 33 winners past Tsitsipas.

“Without this crowd, I haven’t the possibility to win the match,” Alcaraz said. “I was down at the beginning of the fourth set so thank you to the crowd for pushing me up in the fifth.”

Tsitsipas opened the final tie-break with an ace but Alcaraz jumped ahead 5-2 and 6-3 before finishing matters with a forehand winner after four hours and seven minutes of play. He collapsed on the court to celebrate.

“It’s one of those matches where you feel like you’re in control and it doesn’t go your way,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s kind of bitter.”

American Frances Tiafoe sprung an upset, ousting fifth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-1 in a late-night encounter.

Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev, the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open runner-up, beat Spain’s 74th-ranked Pablo Andujar 6-0, 6-4, 6-3. He will next face British 24th seed Daniel Evans.

Women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus also advanced with ease, beating American Danielle Collins 6-3, 6-3.

‘I Think I’m Going To Take A Break From Playing’ Says Tearful Osaka

Japan’s Naomi Osaka sits with a towel over her head during a break in her 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 3, 2021. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

 

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, wiping away tears after a stunning US Open upset loss on Friday, said she will take an indefinite break from playing tennis.

“I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match,” Osaka said, choking up and wiping away tears. “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”

With that, the defending US Open champion put on her Covid-19 facemask, rose and ended the news conference after losing to Canadian teen left-hander Leylah Fernandez 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.

The world number three from Japan, who withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon over mental health issues that she said were exacerbated by speaking after matches, declined a chance to end the session before saying she planned to take a break.

“How do I go around saying this?” Osaka asked aloud. “I feel like for me recently, like, 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, but basically I feel like…”

After saying she wanted to continue, Osaka, 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.”

Then she announced her tennis break.

Osaka said she thought she served well against Fernandez, but overall she added: “I didn’t play that well. Like I didn’t move that well at all. It’s kind of to be expected sometimes.”

Asked about trouble against left-handers, Osaka said, “I can’t even tell you how it feels to return it because I don’t think I could have returned a ball against a righty today either. I’m pretty sure my return stats were really horrendous.

“It wasn’t like she was serving bombs, so I’m not really sure what to say.”

Osaka had not played a match since Monday’s opener after getting a walkover in the second round.

“I think I would have preferred to play a match. I’ve never had a walkover in a Grand Slam, so that was definitely a really weird feeling,” Osaka said.

“I’m honestly not sure if I feel like I’ve taken a step today or this tournament. I feel like I’m not really sure what I can say about how I played just now.”

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 03: Naomi Osaka of Japan walks off the court after losing to Leylah Fernandez of Canada during her Women’s Singles third round match on Day Five at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 03, 2021 in New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP 

 

– Maybe a ‘boiling point’ –
Osaka’s break from tennis, with a potential title defense coming early next year at the Australian Open, came on a night where she slammed her racquet to the court several times after missing a chance to serve out for the match in the second set.

“I’m really sorry about that,” she said. “I’m not really sure why. I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.

“Normally I feel like I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way, and I feel like you can feel that.”

She compared it to a child’s temper tantrum.

“I’m not really sure why it happens the way it happens now,” Osaka said. “But, yeah, it’s basically why. You could kind of see that.

“I was kind of like a little kid.”

Asked if the trouble might have come from Fernandez’s serve or the tension of the moment, Osaka indicated it was other issues she was dealing with that caused the meltdown.

“I don’t think it was her serve because I’ve been able to return pretty well against people that served better,” Osaka said. “I don’t think it’s the occasion because I’ve been in this situation before.

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

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles third round match against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 3, 2021. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP)

 

Osaka Advances By Walkover At US Open, Medvedev Wins

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: Naomi Osaka of Japan returns a shot against Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic during their women’s singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

 

Defending champion Naomi Osaka advanced by walkover at the US Open on Wednesday while Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev and fifth-seeded compatriot Andrey Rublev breezed into the third round.

Japanese third seed Osaka, seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and third US Open crown in four years, reached the third round when Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic withdrew due to illness.

“I have been feeling unwell these past few days dealing with a non-covid related viral ilness,” 20-year-old left-hander Danilovic posted on social media.

Osaka, who next faces Canada’s 73rd-ranked Leylah Fernandez, could become the first back-to-back US Open winner since Serena Williams, absent with a torn hamstring, captured her third in a row in 2014.

Osaka’s Grand Slam win streak remains at 16 matches, the walkover not counting toward the run just as her withdrawing from the French Open after the first round did not halt it.

Medvedev, this year’s Australian Open runner-up, defeated Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 while Rublev fell behind 5-2 before roaring back to eliminate Spaniard Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-1.

Medvedev, a winner last month in Toronto, won his only prior match against Koepfer on his way to the 2019 US Open final, which he lost to Rafael Nadal.

“Great level from me,” Medvedev said. “There were a few tight moments in the match and I managed to play them well. I’m happy to be through in less than two hours.”

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Daniil Medvedev of Russia celebrates after defeating Dominik Koepfer of Germany during his Men’s Singles second round match on Day Three of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 01, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

Two-time Grand Slam winners Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza booked a third-round showdown.

Spanish ninth seed Muguruza, the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon champion, defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-2, taking her first win in four tries against the German.

“It was dificult because we are great friends,” Muguruza said. “I took my time and played well. That made a difference.”

She will next face two-time Australian Open champion and three-time US Open runner-up Azarenka, the 18th seed from Belarus who defeated Italy’s Jasmine Paolini 6-3, 7-6 (7/1).

“The next round is going to be exciting for both of us,” Azarenka said.

Azarenka and Muguruza have split four career meetings. Muguruza won the most recent in 2020 at Rome and again by walkover in this year’s Doha semi-finals.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match. She always plays great here,” Muguruza said. “She’s always a dangerous player, because if you played great you can always play great again. She’s one of the best players out there.”

Romanian 12th seed Simona Halep, the 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion, replaced Osaka on Ashe and dispatched Slovakian Kristina Kucova 6-3, 6-1.

Despite a bandaged right thigh and a year of nagging injuries, Halep advanced on a service winner after 68 minutes for her deepest US Open run since 2016.

“I feel better. I’m more confident,” Halep said. “Before the tournament, I was a little worried with injuries.”

Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina, a 2019 US Open semi-finalist, ousted Spain’s Rebeka Masarova 6-2, 7-5.

British 24th seed Daniel Evans beat American Marcos Giron 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 2-6, 6-3 to book a third-round match against Australian Alex Popyrin, who advanced 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/4), 4-0 when Bulgarian 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov retired.

– Plan for toilet breaks –
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek third seed whose extended bathroom breaks have become the subject of ridicule at the Open, has the last Ashe night match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who is 0-17 in Grand Slams against top-10 opponents.

Tsitsipas was derided by three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and Olympic champion Alexander Zverev for taking long toilet breaks and other pauses to disrupt opponents.

Murray says he “lost respect” for the French Open runner-up and Zverev joked the Greek star travels to the moon to use the bathroom.

Tsitsipas, who would match his best US Open run by reaching the third round, says he’s only using rules available to all ATP Tour players.

“I’m playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair,” Tsitsipas said.

Americans Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, meet in the Ashe night feature match.

‘This One Sucks’ – Tennis Star Osaka Suffers Home Olympic Shock

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

 

 

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dreams of home Olympic gold were crushed by a 6-1, 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova Tuesday as her return to action came to an abrupt end.

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron and was one of the faces of the Games, struggled in an error-strewn display that blew the draw wide open after the earlier exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.

Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”

The third-round defeat follows a turbulent few months for Osaka, who abandoned her French Open campaign in May after refusing to attend press conferences, citing the need to preserve her mental health.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova leaves the court after beating Japan’s Naomi Osaka in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Osaka also skipped Wimbledon, saying she had been battling depression and anxiety, before returning in Tokyo for her first Olympics including her starring role at the opening ceremony.

“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much,” said Osaka.

After looking assured in the first two rounds after her eight-week hiatus, Osaka made a dreadful start under the centre court roof at a rain-hit Ariake Tennis Park and never recovered.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” she said.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

 

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka competes against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Slow start spells the end –
Osaka dropped serve in the opening game and was broken twice more as the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova raced away with the first set.

The second seed broke in the second set but relinquished the early advantage with a double fault that allowed Vondrousova to level at two games apiece.

The 23-year-old grappled with inconsistency, and even when given a sniff of regaining the initiative she had no response to Vondrousova’s array of crafty drop shots.

Osaka saved two match points as she served to stay alive at 4-5 but Vondrousova converted at the third time of asking as the Japanese superstar smacked a backhand wide.

Vondrousova will go on to face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the quarter-finals.

“Of course it’s one of the biggest wins of my career,” said Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up.

“Naomi is a great player, she has so many Grand Slams, so I knew it would be a tough match. I’m very happy with my play.

“I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I’m just happy to be through.”

Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina is the highest-ranked women’s player remaining in Tokyo.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Naomi Osaka after winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Earlier Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the men’s third round as he avenged last month’s Wimbledon loss to Frances Tiafoe.

The Greek third seed downed American Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 in the opening match of the day as all play on outside courts was delayed an hour by morning drizzle.

Tsitsipas, who is also entered in mixed doubles with Maria Sakkari, will play France’s Ugo Humbert or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Having lost to Tiafoe in the opening round at Wimbledon, Tsitsipas ensured there was no repeat as a single break in each set enabled him to wrap up victory in 77 minutes.

Osaka Crashes Out Of Olympics As Bermuda Celebrate Historic Gold

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

 

Japanese star Naomi Osaka crashed out of the Olympics tennis competition on Tuesday after Flora Duffy delivered gold for  Bermuda for the first time in the tiny island’s history.

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in last week’s opening ceremony, produced an error-strewn performance in losing 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova, ending her cherished dream of winning on home soil.

The 23-year-old — one of the faces of the Tokyo Games — had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.

The second seed, who was broken five times in the match, will be bitterly disappointed at missing out on a chance of Olympic gold, especially as world number one Ashleigh Barty lost in the first round.

Triathlete Duffy won the first gold of the day in the women’s event, making Bermuda the smallest territory or nation in terms of population to win a gold medal at a Summer Games.

The 33-year-old timed 1hr 55min 36sec to come home more than a minute ahead of Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, with American Katie Zaferes taking the bronze.

For Duffy it was a welcome reward after persistent injuries and a diagnosis of anaemia in 2013.

“I have achieved my dream of winning a gold medal, but also winning Bermuda’s first gold medal,” she said.

“It’s bigger than me and that’s a really cool moment. That was the longest kilometre of my life (the final one of the run).”

– Pool duel –
Elsewhere, swimming powerhouses Australia and the United States won one gold medal each in the morning pool session and are on three golds apiece.

Australian world-record holder Kaylee McKeown upstaged American arch-rival Regan Smith to claim the women’s 100m Olympic backstroke crown as Russia and Britain also won golds.

McKeown, who shattered Smith’s world record last month, flew through the water at the Tokyo Aquatic Center to touch in 57.47 seconds, a new Olympic record and only fractionally outside her own world best.

Smith had to settle for third behind Rio Olympic bronze medallist Kylie Masse of Canada.

McKeown, who lost her father last year to brain cancer, said: “It’s not necessarily what I’ve been through. Everyone has a journey of their own and it just so happens that mine’s been a really tough one.”

On a day of upsets, American women’s 100m breaststroke world-record holder and defending champion Lilly King was beaten, and teammate and 100m backstroke champion Ryan Murphy also tasted defeat.

King was stunned by 17-year-old compatriot Lydia Jacoby, who swam a scintillating final 50m to touch in 1:04.95 and edge her into bronze, with South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker taking silver.

Russian swimmers Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov took gold and silver in the 100m backstroke, pushing Murphy into third place.

Britain’s Tom Dean came back from two bouts of coronavirus to edge out team-mate Duncan Scott and win the 200m freestyle.

“I contracted Covid twice in the last 12 months,” he said. “It’s unheard of. When I was sitting in my flat in isolation, an Olympic gold seem a million miles off, but here we are.”

– Biles pressure –
Later, all eyes will be on US gymnastics star Simone Biles in the women’s team final as the 24-year-old four-time Olympic champion seeks to erase the memory of an uncharacteristically error-strewn qualifying competition.

Biles made mistakes on floor and vault  on Sunday and the other Americans followed suit as they failed to post the top score of the day for the first time at a world championships or Olympics since 2010.

The US women came to Tokyo as firm favourites but Biles admitted to feeling the pressure in an Instagram post on Monday, saying “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.”

With spectators banned from the gymnastics and most events at the Games to protect the Japanese public from coronavirus, Biles does not have a crowd to inspire her.

But it would be a huge shock if she failed to win a fifth gold to kick off her attempt to equal or surpass Soviet great Larisa Latynina’s record of nine gymnastics titles.

Djokovic, Osaka Cruise At Olympics As Women’s Seeds Tumble

 

Novak Djokovic strolled into the third round of the Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament on Monday as Japanese star Naomi Osaka’s path to gold opened up further after a host of leading women’s seeds exited.

Djokovic smacked 14 aces in a 6-4, 6-3 win over Germany’s 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff and will play Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a place in the quarter-finals.

The world number one had led calls for organisers to push back start times to avoid the worst of the punishing heat after blazing sunshine brought the extreme weather policy into play in round one.

But a gentle breeze and slightly overcast skies at Ariake Tennis Park made for less brutal conditions on the third day of the Games.

“I was struggling with certain things in the first round, but today was far more pleasant to play, just a higher level of tennis on my side,” said Djokovic.

“I’m very pleased with the way I felt on the court.”

As Djokovic edges closer towards a Golden Grand Slam, after already snapping up the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles this year, he appears unfazed by the rising pressure.

“I think that once you reach the top spots in the rankings and start winning Slams, you’re going to experience different kinds of expectations and pressure from yourself and people around,” said Djokovic.

“Being a Grand Slam champion and being number one in the world carries a lot of weight.”

Osaka raced into the last 16 as she powered past Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour, playing her second match in as many days after lighting the Olympic cauldron on Friday.

“Honestly, I feel like I was a bit more nervous before the match,” said Osaka.

“I felt a lot of butterflies, but I think as I started playing and feeling more comfortable, I knew that no matter what it would be a great match.”

Before arriving at the Games, Osaka had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.

Sabalenka, Swiatek and Kvitova lose

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot to Croatia’s Donna Vekic during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles second round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 26, 2021.
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

 

 

The second seed is the highest-ranked player left in the women’s draw following the shock first-round exit of world number one and Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty.

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka was beaten by Donna Vekic in the second round Monday.

“It definitely would mean a lot for me to win gold here, but I know it’s a process,” said Osaka, who next plays 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

“I know that these are the best players in the world and I honestly haven’t played in a while so I’m trying to take it one match at a time. But all in all I’m just really happy to be here.”

Sabalenka lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3) to Vekic, while 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek was left in tears after going down in straight sets to Spain’s Paula Badosa.

Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck knocked out Czech 10th seed Petra Kvitova in three sets as Sara Sorribes Tormo backed up her defeat of Barty with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Fiona Ferro.

Elina Svitolina was in danger of joining the exodus of top players, but the Ukrainian scrapped her way past Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova beat Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-4 and two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza swatted China’s Wang Qiang aside for the loss of just three games.

Alexander Zverev is a potential semi-final opponent for Djokovic. The German strolled past Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan 6-2, 6-2 and second seed Daniil Medvedev thrashed Sumit Nagal 6-2, 6-1.

Medvedev will play the volatile Fabio Fognini in round three, with Spanish sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta getting the better of Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

-AFP

Osaka Makes Winning Return At Tokyo Olympics

Japan’s Naomi Osaka returns a shot to China’s Zheng Saisai during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles first round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the star of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, began her quest for gold Sunday with a 6-1, 6-4 win over China’s Zheng Saisai in her first match since taking a break for mental health reasons.

The second-seeded Osaka, the favourite for gold following the shock first-round exit of Ashleigh Barty, will play Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic in the last 32.

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka returns a shot to China’s Zheng Saisai during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles first round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Australian Open champion Osaka had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying that media commitments were harming her mental health.

Osaka, who was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron on Friday, is attempting to become her country’s first Olympic tennis champion.

AFP

Osaka In Olympic Spotlight, But Biracial Japanese Face Struggles

Japan’s Naomi Osaka looks on at Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

Emili Omuro was thrilled by Naomi Osaka’s star turn at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, but the biracial teenager says Japan must do more to accept people of mixed heritage.

Four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, climbed a replica Mount Fuji on Friday to light the cauldron in the ceremony’s crowning moment.

And she wasn’t the only athlete of dual heritage representing the host.

Japanese-Beninese NBA basketball star Rui Hachimura was one of the flagbearers leading Japan’s team into the Olympic Stadium.

Osaka and Hachimura are adored in Japan, and boast lucrative sponsorship and advertising deals.

But many young people of black and Japanese heritage still struggle in an often conservative and largely homogenous society.

“There were many times when it was hard,” 14-year-old Omuro, born to a Japanese mother and a black American father, told AFP of her childhood in a town north of Tokyo.

“People would whisper behind my back and make fun of me at extra-curricular clubs, or when I was walking down the street.”

Looking to draw attention to the bullying and discrimination faced by some biracial Japanese, Omuro applied and was chosen to be a torchbearer in the nationwide Olympic flame relay before the Games.

She also hoped to highlight the country’s increasing but often overlooked racial diversity.

“Some people say, ‘for mixed people, bullying is inevitable.’ And other people don’t know there is discrimination, or pretend not to see it,” she said.

 

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka holds the Olympic Torch before lighting the flame of hope in the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by HANNAH MCKAY / POOL / AFP)

 

An overview shows Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka standing after lighting the flame of hope in the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP)

 

– ‘Ignorance, not hate’ –
When coronavirus measures began to force sections of the relay off public roads, Omuro reconsidered taking part, worried about the pandemic.

But she ultimately decided her participation would be important.

“We need to create a society where people can feel at ease, even if they are different.”

Kinota Braithwaite is painfully aware of how discrimination can affect Japanese biracial children.

The black Canadian’s daughter Mio, whose mother is Japanese, suffered racist taunts in second grade in Tokyo.

“This happened to me when I was a kid growing up in Canada, and I thought that the world was a place where this wouldn’t happen any more,” he told AFP.

“So it really broke my heart.”

This year, he published a children’s book called “Mio The Beautiful” about his daughter’s experience.

And he gives talks in schools to raise awareness of an issue that he says Japanese teachers are often not equipped to handle.

Braithwaite, a teacher himself, sees discrimination in Japan as largely driven by “ignorance, not hate”.

Athletes like Osaka and Hachimura give his two children “role models”, he said.

And the pair are huge fans — “My son has a Rui Hachimura water bottle, he has his hair cut like Rui, he plays basketball,” he laughed.

“For Japanese people, it sort of opens their eyes too, which is a good thing.”

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka uses a camera at Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Representation ‘does matter’ –
Japan remains a largely homogenous society.

An analysis of government data by Kyodo News agency found just 20,000 of 1.02 million babies born in 2014 had Japanese and non-Japanese parents.

And only recently has the image of mixed Japanese started to include those with black heritage, said Sayaka Osanami Torngren, associate professor of international migration and ethnic relations at Malmo University in Sweden.

“Historically, mixed persons have always existed (in Japan), but the image of mixed persons has always been white or Caucasian and Japanese,” said Torngren.

Now, more people of black and Japanese or mixed Asian heritage are “raising their voices and addressing their experiences of discrimination or racism”.

Even stars like Washington Wizards power forward Hachimura and Osaka are not immune to racist language and tone-deaf depictions.

In 2019, Osaka’s sponsor Nissin Foods was accused of “whitewashing” over an animated advert depicting the 23-year-old with light skin, and a Japanese comedy duo apologised after joking she was “too sunburned” and needed “bleach”.

Hachimura meanwhile revealed this year that he receives racist messages “almost every day”.

“There are people who say there is no racism in Japan,” wrote his brother Aren Hachimura, posting a hateful message he received online.

“But I want people to pay attention to the issue of racism.”

So seeing Hachimura and Osaka represent Japan on the global stage is important, said Torngren.

“Even though it might be token, it does matter.”

 

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 20, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka attends a training session at the Ariake Tennis Park ahead of the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. – Defending champion Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open due to mental issues and skipped Wimbledon, and Roger Federer, who missed the Olympics with a knee injury, were named July 21, 2021 to the US Open tennis field. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Federer, Osaka Among Those Named To US Open Tennis Field

In this file photo taken on May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig during their women’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. 
MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

 

Defending champion Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open due to mental issues and skipped Wimbledon, and Roger Federer, who missed the Olympics with a knee injury, were named Wednesday to the US Open tennis field.

The US Tennis Association named the men’s and women’s singles lineups for the August 30-September 12 event at Flushing Meadows, where spectators will return at 100% capacity.

The ATP Tour’s 103 top-ranked players are entered for New York with top-ranked Novak Djokovic chasing a calendar-year Grand Slam after a Wimbledon victory that lifted him level with ninth-ranked Federer and third-ranked Rafael Nadal with a men’s record 20 career Grand Slam titles.

Only Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969 and Don Budge in 1938 have managed a men’s calendar Slam.

Djokovic, who will seek Olympic gold in Tokyo, could become only the second player to win all four Slam singles crowns and Olympic gold in the same year after Steffi Graf in 1988.

Other men’s entrants include sixth-ranked defending champion Dominic Thiem, past US Open winners Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, world number two Daniil Medvedev and fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Britain’s Andy Murray, the 2012 US Open champion, was the first player on the alternate list and will gain a spot in the main draw should anyone in the field withdraw.

Sixteen qualifiers and eight wildcards will complete the field.

On the women’s side, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who won her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, is among 15 Slam singles champions in the field, seven of them in the top 10.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka of Japan, ranked second, is also in the lineup along with 2020 Australian Open champion and world number four Sofia Kenin, fifth-ranked 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu, eighth-ranked Iga Swiatek and former world number ones Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.

In all, 100 of the top 104 players in the WTA rankings opted into the event.

Osaka Preparing For Olympics, Agrees To Do News Conferences

In this file photo taken on May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig during their women’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris.  MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Tennis star Naomi Osaka said Monday she wants to be on top form at the Olympics and will take part in press conferences, after pulling out of several tournaments citing her struggles with depression and anxiety.

The world number two told Japan’s national broadcaster NHK she was getting ready to play on home turf at the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Games, after having withdrawn from Wimbledon and the French Open.

“I am preparing myself little by little so I can be at the top of my game for the Olympics,” the 23-year-old wrote in a message published by the broadcaster.

“Since getting the attention of the world, I’ve always had bouts of anxiety. This is especially the case in the lead up to big competitions.”

Osaka set off a debate about mental health in June after abandoning her French Open campaign just one match in over a dispute on media duties.

The Japanese player had said post-match news conferences were detrimental to her mental health and likened them to “kicking people when they’re down”.

She later revealed her battle with depression and anxiety in a post on social media, saying she wanted to take time away from the game to get better.

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In the message published by NHK, Osaka said she was “proud” to play for her country at the Games, adding that she would take part in news conferences while giving consideration to her mental health.

She was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification from Roland Garros after refusing to honour mandatory media commitments.

French Open organisers protested that they had treated her with “care and respect” after they were accused of being heavy-handed.

Osaka’s agent said last month that she had withdrawn from Wimbledon to spend time with friends and family.

But he added that she was “excited to play in front of her home fans” at Tokyo 2020, which begins on July 23.

AFP

Osaka Withdraws From Wimbledon, Eyes Tokyo Olympics

In this file photograph taken on February 20, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts after a point against Jennifer Brady of the US during their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Paul CROCK / AFP

 

Japanese star Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Wimbledon, her agent confirmed Thursday, weeks after the world number two pulled out of the French Open citing her struggle with depression and anxiety.  

“Naomi won’t be playing Wimbledon this year,” Osaka’s agent Stuart Duguid said in an email to AFP. “She is taking some personal time with friends and family.

“She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”

On Wednesday, Wimbledon organisers said the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion was expected to take part in the championships, which start on June 28.

“At this point in time she’s entered into the championships and we haven’t received confirmation that she won’t compete,” All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said.

Osaka has been in the spotlight since withdrawing from the French Open.

She was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification from Roland Garros after she refused to honour mandatory media commitments.

French Open organisers protested that they had treated her with “care and respect” after they were accused of being heavy-handed.

Osaka lost in the third round of Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018 and bowed out in the first round in 2019. Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Earlier Thursday, two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal also announced he would be skipping this year’s tournament as well as the Olympics in order “to prolong my career”.

Wimbledon is the second tournament Osaka has withdrawn from since abandoning her French Open campaign after one match.

She also withdrew from a WTA tournament in Berlin following Roland Garros.

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: Naomi Osaka of Japan wears a protective face mask with the name, Ahmaud Arbery stenciled on it after winning her Women's Singles third round match against Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine on Day Five of the 2020 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 04, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
File photo: Naomi Osaka of Japan wears a protective face mask with the name, Ahmaud Arbery stenciled on it after winning her Women’s Singles third round match against Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine on Day Five of the 2020 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 04, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Japanese star is expected to be one of the faces of the Tokyo Olympics, where she will be targeting a gold medal for the hosts.

Osaka is one of the most exciting talents to emerge in women’s tennis in recent years, and had already won four Grand Slam titles — the 2018 and 2020 US Opens and the 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens.

Osaka, whose father is Haitian, has also been a prominent social activist.

Last year during her victorious US Open campaign, she wore customised face masks onto the court before each game bearing the names of African-American victims of racial injustice.

However she startled the tennis world on the eve of the French Open by announcing she would not participate in tournament press conferences.

She later revealed that mental health issues were behind the decision as she pulled out of the tournament saying she did not want “to be a distraction.”

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she explained.

AFP

 

 

Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Berlin Tournament

FILES) In this file photo taken on May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig during their women’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021
MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Naomi Osaka has pulled out of next week’s Berlin WTA grasscourt tournament in the wake of her controversial exit from the French Open, organisers confirmed Monday.

“We have received notification that Naomi Osaka cannot start in Berlin. After consulting her management, she will take a break,” said a spokesman for the Berlin tournament, which starts June 14.

Osaka has not said when she plans to play next, casting doubt on her participation at Wimbledon, which starts on June 28, and the Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner has been in the spotlight since withdrawing from Roland Garros after a dispute over her refusal to attend press conferences.

As a result, French tennis officials fined Osaka $15,000 and threatened to axe her from the tournament for not honoring mandatory media commitments, prompting the Japanese star to withdraw.

On Saturday, Osaka, who revealed her ongoing battle with depression and anxiety which she said having to face the media exacerbated, thanked her supporters in a brief message on Instagram.

-AFP