Naomi Osaka hopes home event will be balm to her slump
Former World No 1 Naomi Osaka has admitted that her 2022 season has seen more downs than ups but hopes to revive her fortunes as the WTA Tour returns to Japan at the Pan-Pacific Open.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has plummeted to 48 in the WTA rankings after a dismal run that has seen her bomb out in the first round at her last three tournaments.
The 24-year-old has not won a title since the 2021 Australian Open and has been hampered by injury throughout 2022.
Osaka is hoping to correct her course in Tokyo where she is the defending champion, albeit from three years ago.
The Pan-Pacific Open returns for the first time since the outbreak coronavirus pandemic.
Osaka will face stiff competition from a field that includes US Open semi-finalist and Cincy titlist Caroline Garcia, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and Spain’s world number four Paula Badosa.
“This year has been not the best year for me but I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Osaka said.
She added that she was “happy to be healthy”.
“Life is ups and downs, and this year was more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”
Osaka has been outside the top 10 all year and endured first-round defeats at both the French and US Opens.
She withdrew from Wimbledon with an Achilles injury, after originally considering skipping the tournament because ranking points would not be awarded.
Osaka admitted that her fall from the sport’s summit had been difficult to handle.
“It was kind of hard at first, just because I feel like I should be somewhere where I’m obviously currently not,” she said.
“I think for me it’s more about being at peace with myself. I know that I’m here for a reason.”
Osaka said she was looking forward to playing in front of Japanese fans again after participating in last year’s Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors.
She admits that she will have to trust in her forehand more to rebuild her confidence after her poor season to date.
Osaka will begin her campaign against Australia’s world number 55 Daria Saville in the first round.
She paid tribute to tennis legend Serena Williams, who retired after the US Open, and said she had “gotten over trying to fill people’s shoes”.
“I don’t think you can ever do that because everyone is unique, and we’re all forging our own paths and we’re all on our own journeys,” said Osaka.
“It’s really incredible all the stuff she’s done for this sport and beyond that. Just watching her as a businesswoman is really cool.”
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