Will Naomi Osaka rise again? ‘I think life is ups and downs’

Naomi Osaka
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

It’s fall now and many players have been slowed down with injuries. But, there are more than a few who want to finish the top 20, or even the top 10.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Toray Pan Pacific Open, continuing her injury-plagued season. “I think, of course, the year has been not the best year for me but I think overall I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m happy to be healthy because in Europe I did injure myself and that was the first injury that took me that long to get healed.
I think life is ups and downs.”

It sure is. She is ranked No. 48, and next week, she will go down even further. She has no chance to reach the final eight in the WTA Finals at the Guadalajara Open in Mexico.

But, next year, she can reset, get ready to really focus again and not worry about defending previous wins. Of course, she has beaten everyone, and she is a gigantic hitter. Her serve, forehand and backhand are huge. Lately, she was not comfortable. If she wants to grind back into the top 10 in 2023, then she needs to be happy — rather than being so negative — she can win a Grand Slam and many other tournaments. But will she get there? Does anyone really know? As she said, she is up and down.

Here is a big positive: Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia is ranked No. 16. If she wins in Tokyo and San Diego, then she does have a small chance to make the top 8. However, even if she does not, she will still have a  wonderful year. The 26-year-old decided to play more aggressively, to move it around and push herself. Six weeks ago, she made it to the final in Toronto, upsetting Leylah Fernandez. Then she shocked the No. 1 Iga Świątek. On the hardcourts she put down the steady Belinda Bencic and then she outhit Karolina Pliskova. Finally, she lost against the two-time champ Simona Halep in three close sets. She hit a big milestone

“I think the moment that I played my best tennis was when I didn’t have a lot of expectation. Sometimes … we create things that don’t exist in our mind,” she said.

Andy Murray may or may not play in the Davis Cup next year, but the three-time Grand Slam champion thinks that the other players have improved a lot this year. Three Brits – Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Joe Salisbury – have moved up the ladder. When the 35-years-old retires, they will continue to grow.

“Obviously when you get to my age and this stage of your career, I don’t know how many opportunities I’ll get to still be part of this team. We’ve got obviously a lot of depth now in the singles and the doubles,” Murray said. “Because of that, it makes it tougher.”

They cannot advance on the Davis Cup in November. Murray says that instead of returning to three-out-of-five sets instead of the new two-out-of-three format.

“Obviously each tie, with it being best-of-three as well, it’s probably in some ways a bit more intense, the matches, and there’s less sort of room for error. I’m not saying we would have won all the matches had it been best-of-five, but you have more of an opportunity to come back into the matches,” Murray said.

“If you’re playing well, the longer the match is going, the better that is going to be for you. It is different in terms of atmosphere and everything… It’s just a little bit different because of the best-of-three format.”