Naomi Osaka has opened up about her inner desire to win a clay court title after her battle with Aussie World No.1 Ash Barty heats up.
The World No.2 is set to return at the Madrid Open after nearly two years away from the red surface.
Osaka hasn’t enjoyed much success on clay, despite winning four Grand Slam titles across the Australian Open and US Open.
Her best result at Roland Garros is the Round of 32 and admitted she hasn’t “touched clay in two years” since the 2019 French Open.
“At the end of the day, I haven’t played a clay tournament in two years,” Osaka said.
“Haven’t touched clay in two years either.”
But Osaka said she is feeling calm ahead of her return at Madrid.
“It’s really hard to tell because I can’t remember how I felt the last time I was here playing, but I do know that I think I’m hitting the ball pretty well,” she added.
“I can only hope that for now that’s good enough. Maybe when I play my matches I’ll be able to adjust a lot better.”
Osaka opens up on pressure ahead of clay court season
The weight of expectation weighs heavy on the World No.2 after claiming the first Grand Slam of the year.
She has been in an extended battle with Aussie Barty for the World No.1 ranking, but has since slipped behind.
Barty has been World No.1 since winning the French Open in 2019, but many critics say she wouldn’t have held onto the top spot if the WTA hadn’t frozen the rankings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many believe Naomi Osaka is the true World No.1, with the Japanese star winning her fourth grand slam title at the Australian Open in February.
But Barty’s consecutive titles at the Miami Open and Stuttgart Open have again extended the gap since the Australian Open and silenced some doubters.
The pressure of winning does take a toll on the current Australian Open and US Open champion who said she feels the stress of not winning on clay.
“I feel for me it’s exciting to go into the clay-court swing because I haven’t won a tournament on clay yet. Even though that does make me a bit excited, it also gives me a bit of, like, stress because I really want to do well here,” she said ahead of the Madrid Open.
“I think for me, I do better when I don’t stress myself out and tell myself that I have to win a tournament. But it’s really hard to fight that feeling when, I don’t know, you really want something.”
Osaka improved her results on clay in 2019 after making the Madrid Open quarter-final.
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