Following Miami quarterfinal loss, Naomi Osaka shifts focus to clay

Following Miami quarterfinal loss, Naomi Osaka shifts focus to clay

"I feel like no matter what I'll have more freedom on the clay courts and the grass than on hard, because I feel like I'm still learning a lot on those surfaces," the world No. 2 said.

Clay is Naomi Osaka's least favorite surface, but the world No. 2 is keen to play on the slow surface following her 6-0, 6-4 loss to Maria Sakkari in the Miami Open quarterfinals.

The 23-year-old from Japan has won seven career titles, including four Grand Slams, but all have been on hard courts. But Osaka says that her Belgian coach Wim Fissette, who she began working with just before the start of 2020, can improve her performances on clay.

"Yeah, definitely I'd love to win a tournament on clay. I think for me I'm going to learn a lot from Wim," Osaka told press in Miami. "He's very energetic and excited to move on to the new surfaces."

Osaka did not play any clay-court tournaments in 2020, choosing to skip the rescheduled French Open following her victory at the US Open. But in 2019 she reached the semifinals of Stuttgart and the quarterfinals of Madrid and Rome, and will now look to build on those showings as she attempts to reach the second week of Roland Garros for the first time.


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Her next scheduled event isn't until Madrid in May, but she argues that the pressure will be off when she returns to competition, saying, "I feel like no matter what I'll have more freedom on the clay courts and the grass than on hard, because I feel like I'm still learning a lot on those surfaces."

Her run of success on hard courts—a 23-match winning streak ended with her loss in Miami—had put her in contention to return to No. 1. Osaka admitted that it affected her during the event.

"I wasn't really thinking at all about rankings, but someone asked me that question, so then I did start to ponder about it a lot," she said. "So maybe unwillingly that put pressure on myself. But I feel like even if it did, I should be able to rise above that. You know, I'm going to be asked various questions."

Ash Barty is still No. 1 in the WTA rankings.