Teenage hotshot Naomi Osaka was her own worst critic after a shock early exit at the Japan Women’s Open on Wednesday, and admitted she had to change her “childish” ways ahead of another event in Tokyo next week at the Pan Pacific Open.
Osaka, at No. 46 Japan’s highest-ranked player in the world, was widely expected to beat 108th-ranked compatriot Kurumi Nara in their first-round clash, but the 19-year-old of Haitian and Japanese descent instead was left to pick up the pieces of a comprehensive 6-3, 6-0 defeat at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
“I originally thought I was going to have a lot of fun and just play well. But then when I started the match I was really nervous and then I felt a lot of pressure and I guess I didn’t really cope with it that well,” said Osaka.
“I went all childish and immature, which I really hope to change.
“I didn’t really see a way to solve getting the pressure off my back. (Even after coming from 4-0 down to 4-3 in the first set) I didn’t really feel like I was playing that well and didn’t really know what I was doing on the court even though I talked with people before the match.
“I just felt extremely tight. Hopefully when I learn more and become a better player that won’t happen anymore,” she said.
Osaka, who ousted defending champion Angelique Kerber at the U.S. Open before going out in the third round against unfancied Estonian Kaia Kanepi, paid tribute to Nara, who also reached the third round of the Grand Slam.
“I think she had a really solid plan on what she was doing,” said Osaka. “She was mixing and hitting higher balls and it worked well for her today. I also think she is a really good player and she also did really well at the U.S. Open.
“Going into the match I knew it was going to be hard but I also expected myself to do better so I am a little bit disappointed.”
Osaka lost in the second round of the Japan Women’s Open last year but went on to reach the Pan Pacific Open final in a breakthrough season before falling to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.
“I don’t think (the Pan Pacific Open) next week will be that big of a deal for me,” said Osaka. “This tournament (the Japan Women’s Open) is the first tournament back in Tokyo (after the U.S. Open) and I really felt a lot of pressure.
“I think next week I’ll know that I’ll have the pressure and I’ll be able to handle it. I don’t really have any problems with how I play. I know I played bad today but we have addressed that.”