• Kyodo


Naomi Osaka had the home crowd on her side but could not continue her Japan Women’s Open run on Thursday, losing 6-3, 6-2 in the second round to sixth-seeded Zhang Shuai of China at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.

The 18-year-old Osaka, ranked 69th in the world, amassed 13 winners against 49th-ranked Zhang but was outdone by the consistency from the 27-year-old, who returned well and made few mistakes in their first meeting.

“I think I may have complicated it more in my mind, how I was supposed to play might have been more simple,” Osaka said. “Today I didn’t really adjust to the fact that she was going to return and react to what I’m doing.”

Zhang, who narrowly overcame Eri Hozumi in her first-round match, broke in the second game as Osaka struggled with her first serve. Visibly frustrated early on, Osaka threw her racket in the third game after a missed backhand.

Osaka reverted to flat serves to hold the sixth game and that temporarily gave her momentum as she got a break in the seventh, but she could not carry it further, allowing a break back before dropping the opening set.

Osaka came back from 40-0 down to force a deuce but failed to hold her serve to open the second, before Zhang broke again in the third game.

Osaka began to display her powerful ground strokes off both sides to cheers from her supporters, but they counted for little as she dumped the ball into the net in equal measure.

“For the past few matches, since a little bit before the U.S. Open, I haven’t really played anyone who wasn’t a power player so I was used to short (points), having to do something with the ball all the time so they don’t hit winners,” she said.

Osaka, who reached the third round at the Australian, French and U.S. Opens this year, said she’s positive despite an early exit here at home and also said she learned lessons ahead of the Pan Pacific Open next week, also in Tokyo.

“Actually, for me winning even one round is good … usually after a (Grand) Slam I think about what I just did and not (put) focus on small tournaments,” Osaka said. “But I was able to transition from my match versus (Madison) Keys (in the U.S. Open third round) and I actually think I’m playing quite good.”

“I learned everything can be taken into perspective, I don’t really have to worry about what the other person is going to do.

“(I also learned) to hit cross-court instead of going down the line all the time because that’s crazy, and to just keep fighting no matter what because I did get depressed a little bit (today).”

Kurumi Nara still has a chance to win a title on home soil as she overcame third seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-2.

In other matches, Swiss Viktorija Golubic edged last year’s runner-up Madga Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, while American Alison Riske defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-3, 6-1.

Seventh-seeded American Christina McHale claimed a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson.

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