"I wish with my whole heart to be where they are": Ominous ambition for Naomi Osaka as she looks to challenge top names again

Sunday, 12 May 2024 at 02:00
Naomi Osaka acknowledged that she draws inspiration from the good form of other tennis players to achieve positive results after securing her best clay court victory at the Rome Open. The Japanese player defeated world No. 11 Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-3, marking her third consecutive win in the tournament.
The 4-times Grand Slam champion has achieved three consecutive victories on clay, something she hadn't accomplished since the 2019 Madrid Open. She had never defeated top-20 players on clay before, and this week she did it twice, first by defeating Ukrainian world No. 19 Marta Kostyuk in the second round with a score of 6-3, 6-2.
Both Kostyuk and Kasatkina have recently demonstrated great form on clay. Just three weeks ago, Kostyuk reached the final of the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, although she fell to Elena Rybakina, while Kasatkina was the runner-up at the WTA 500 Charleston Open after losing to Danielle Collins.
After advancing to the round of 16, something she hadn't achieved in Rome since 2019, Osaka was asked about her good form at the Foro Italico: "You'd never beaten a top-20 player on clay. Now you've beaten them twice in a row. Is there a connection from being away from the game and growing and learning and what's happening now for you, which is unprecedented?" the interviewer asked.
"It’s not unprecedented (smiling)," Osaka said. "I'm very grateful to be back. I'm very grateful to be healthy because I know how much hard work it took for me to be here.
"Also, I am just very inspired by the players that I'm watching now. I'm watching a lot of tennis. I wish with my whole heart to be where they are, so I'm doing whatever it takes," she added. "I don't know. I feel like I'm just clawing my way back to hopefully where I think I belong."
Naomi Osaka is currently ranked world No. 134 in the WTA live ranking. She needs to reach the semifinals to ensure her return to the top 100.
The former world No. 1 will face world No. 8 Zheng Qinwen in search of a spot in the quarterfinals. The 21-year-old Chinese player recently defeated Linda Noskova (29th seed) 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

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