Hard-hitting Naomi Osaka wants to swing away, even when playing on slow clay, but admits she often isn't sure what she's doing on the surface—or even what kind of player she wants to be.
The 20-year-old defeated Victoria Azarenka in the first round of Rome, but then won just one game against No. 1 Simona Halep. She might even have got a little teary during her 6-1, 6-0 defeat.
“I didn't say, I wanna cry... Maybe I did. Actually, maybe I did,” she told press at Rome. “Because it's just like one of the most helpless feelings. Like I know I should be making these balls, but for some reason they're not going in, and I don't really know what I should be doing at this point.
"Because I'm legit playing the No. 1 player in the world. And the balls that I practice, they go in. And today it doesn't go in. It's just like one of those moments, you're a little bit depressed."
Still, Osaka gave herself credit for largely avoiding such performances since having an up-and-down 2017.
"I think this is the first match of the year that I've felt like this," she said. "So this year I feel it's been more stable. So I'm really proud of myself for that.”
The Japanese player had a great start to the season, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and winning Indian Wells, scoring wins against Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova, Halep and Daria Kasatkina. She also defeated Serena Williams in Miami.
WATCH: Osaka defeats Williams at Miami Open
But Osaka admits that she is still uncomfortable on the slow clay, and said she rarely changes her tactics and would rather than just go for the lines.
“Usually, there's like two types of people. One that would keep doing the same thing, no matter what, and it'll eventually work or it doesn't,” Osaka said. “But, they'll be happy that they stuck to that way. And then there's another group of people that they'll change what they're doing depending on what's working that day or not. And right now, I'm trying to figure out what type of person I am.
"'Cause some days I'll change what I'm doing and it'll work. But then, other days I'll just blast the ball and not really change if it goes in or out.
"I think it just depends on what type of player you are. I think clay court, maybe since the rallies are longer, you assume that people will change what they're doing. But, I don't really think that way.”
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