Naomi Osaka: ‘When and where she can become No. 1’

Naomi Osaka

At what point will the four-time Slam champion Naomi Osaka rise again? She just came back two months ago, and she looked decent, but she wasn’t fantastic yet. She is certainly getting better, as last year, she had a new baby, so she had to stop, for a while. However, she wants to play, when she can, and at Indian Wells, in the first round, she smoked the veteran Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-1. 

She can smash the ball, with her forehand and her backhand, and her first serve can be massive. She can be so intense, when she is satisfied, and then if she can check out, when she is her thinking, and then she can lose. However, Osaka has won her Grand Slams, on the hardcourts, so she can leap the ball, and hit it right on the lines.

It is impossible to know when and where she can become No. 1 again. Osaka is still young, though, so maybe she is adding with her game, such as at the net, and to return it. She has to, as she will face the Russian Liudmila Samsonova, who looked pretty good.

The 2021 US Open champion  Emma Raducanu is out there this week, and she has been struggling over the past year. But she is more healthy now, and her forehand is flatter. Her backhand is striking, and she could throw it around until she has a chance to really nail it. But not yet, as it will take weeks before she recovers mentally. Also, last year, the 21-year-old had to go to the surgery, with her wrist and her ankle.

“I want to work on becoming a better tennis player,” Raducanu said. “I think for me I’m not too concerned about this year’s tournaments. A lot of people out there would say that I need matches, but I think that for me I want to work on my game and development. Taking time to do that is very necessary and not just following the crowd, or playing a lot of matches, or dropping down [to Challenger level] to do that. I want to work on developing skills. I felt like because I was so go-go-go since December, I felt like I became a little fatigued, so it was good to go back, freshen up and practice for the American swing, which I’m a big fan of.”

The other British Katie Boulter just won in San Diego, which was huge, as she never past into the big tournaments. Now she has, being much more aggressive.

How about the 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen, who is improving a lot. He won a few matches in February and March in Delray Beach, Dallas and Los Cabos, upsetting Alex de Minaur. Last year, he reached the final in Newport, stunning John Isner. A few weeks ago, Michelsen finally feels that he can stay there for a long time.

“I feel like I’ve been everywhere,” Michelsen said. “But I feel like after I won my first couple of rounds in Australia I was like, ‘Wow, I’m a professional. Wow, I’m pretty good.’ So I think that was my big like, ‘Aha!’ moment for sure.”

Another young person, the Frenchman Arthur Fils, can be up and down and can chuck it all over the place. However, he does have to be more thoughtful on the court.

Daniil Medvedev can play fantastic, but he can also back up. After he lost in Dubai, and he lost in the semis against Ugo Humbert — a very good player — he said: “Here I was taking it match by match because I was unfortunately maybe too much looking at my body. First match, how does it feel. Next day, next match, three sets, how do I feel. It was not that bad, but I was not free for 100%, especially on the serve. I couldn’t just go for it. Hopefully this can change because Indian Wells. It’s not like I have one month to prepare. Hopefully I can go for it more.  When I’m free, I want to win every tournament I play. … Again, I’m happy with the result, honestly, with the semifinal, with the way I felt, the body, but I’m disappointed with the energy I had because it was not the energy of a winner of the tournament, which I like to have, which I have had many times.”

Two good who have won a Slam are Jannik Sinner and Caroline Wozniacki . He is playing great this year. Wozniacki is hitting her terrific backhand, taking down Donna Vekic 7-6(5), 6-3. Will she stay here in this tournament?  Maybe, but she has to prove it.