Naomi Osaka admits ‘I’m still not comfortable on clay’ as she looks to overcome mental block

WTA Tour
Naomi Osaka swinging

She has come to grips with the physical side of playing on clay, but Naomi Osaka concedes that mentally she is still trying to figure things out.

Osaka has been the form player on hard courts the past few years as she has won seven titles – including two Australian Open and two US Open trophies – since 2018.

However, she is yet to find her feet on clay and grass as she is yet to reach a final, let alone win a title, on those surfaces.

She started the 2021 clay-court season with high hopes and looked the part after winning her opening match at the Madrid Open last week, but then fell apart against Karolina Muchova in the second round, going down 4-6, 6-3, 1-6.

Asked about her woes on the surface, Osaka replied: “I’m not sure if I should be telling you this, but I’m just not that comfortable on it (clay) still, and I’m not sure if it’s because I need to play longer on it or if I just haven’t grown up on it.

The world No 2 added: “At the beginning when I first started training on clay, physically it was definitely very hard, but I’m the type that adapts quite quickly physically.

“So, I would just say mentally it’s a bit harder because you have to structure the points differently.

“I also think there are bad bounces and stuff. I get quite frustrated. So, yeah, mentally I think it’s a bit more taxing.

“But I think as soon as I get that sort of block out of my mind, then I’ll be more open to the mistakes.

“Right now, I’m taking everything as a learning process, and I’m trying not to be so hard on myself.”

Up next is the Italian Open in Rome before attention switches to Roland Garros, where Osaka has never made it past the third round.

“Honestly, I feel like that’s the reason why I’m here for match prep,” she said. “I think, you know, actually in a weird way I’m kind of glad I’m not winning.”

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