Tokyo Olympics: Returning Naomi Osaka feeling 'a little bit refreshed and happy again'

By Sports Desk July 25, 2021

Naomi Osaka is feeling "a little bit refreshed and happy again" after returning to tennis with a convincing 6-1 6-4 triumph over Zheng Saisai in her Tokyo 2020 opener.

The four-time grand slam winner has not featured since the first round of the French Open two months ago where she abandoned her campaign following a warning she risked expulsion over her refusal to take part in news conferences during the tournament.

Osaka, who is the reigning US and Australian Open champion, then decided to skip Wimbledon after opening up on her battles with anxiety and depression.

The 23-year-old was granted the honour of lighting the flame for Tokyo 2020 on Friday and two days later made a successful return at the Ariake Tennis Park, where she represents one of Japan's greatest medal hopes for the Games.

"I feel like, more than anything, I'm just focused on playing tennis. This, playing the Olympics, has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break I took was very needed," she said.

"But I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and happy again.

"I felt really nervous being in Japan and playing here for the first time in maybe two years, and for it to be my first Olympics. 

"It was definitely really nerve-wracking. But I am glad I was able to win, she is a very tough opponent.

"It's been a while since I played but I feel, more than anything, just happy to be out here. We are playing in a pandemic, and it is really tough for everyone."

Asked how she felt to be talking to the press again, she said: "For me, honestly I don't feel that weird about it.

"It might feel weird to you guys, but I don't know. I'm happy that I guess you guys are asking me questions but more than anything I was just focused on playing tennis and I guess I feel a little bit out of my body right now."

Osaka then revealed that her starring role in Friday's opening ceremony came about in March.

"I was super honoured," she said. That’s a position you dream about and not anyone can do it so when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honoured and I'm just happy to be here and happy to play, especially in Tokyo."

The playing conditions have been a quite literal hot topic over the first two days, with the sweltering heats causing issues for players.

Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic were among those to speak out about the decision not to play matches later in the day Tokyo, where temperatures have regularly been above 30 degrees.

Osaka, though, has no such issues, adding: "It feels fine for me. I have played a couple of tournaments here, of course they resurfaced it since I was last here, but I love being here, and I actually really like the weather."

Related items

  • Paire through in Sofia after ousting seventh seed Davidovich Fokina Paire through in Sofia after ousting seventh seed Davidovich Fokina

    Benoit Paire is through to the second round of the Sofia Open following a 6-4 7-5 win over seventh seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. 

    The Frenchman - ranked no. 49 in the world - marked his debut at the ATP 250 event by ending a three-match losing run, progressing after one hour and 37 minutes on court. 

    Paire, who recorded five breaks of serve en route to victory, will be up against either James Duckworth or Emil Ruusuvuori next. 

    "[I am] happy about the win," Paire said in his on-court interview. "It was not easy. Alejandro is a very good player, so I had to be focused on my game. 

    "I had to serve well and do my best and that is what I did and I am very happy and proud of my game today.  

    "I played well in the first game, it was good for my confidence. The most important thing is to stay on my game and stay focused. I was solid today so I am very happy." 

    Also in Monday's action, Adrian Mannarino was another seed to suffer an early exit, going down in straight sets to Gianluca Mager. 

    Miomir Kecmanovic came through a tight two-set contest to knock out Adrian Andreev, including taking the opener via a tie-break. 

  • Barty withdraws from Indian Wells Open Barty withdraws from Indian Wells Open

    Wimbledon champion and world number one Ash Barty has withdrawn from this month's Indian Wells Open. 

    The Australian has not played since her surprise third-round defeat to Shelby Rogers at the US Open last month. 

    Barty follows four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in pulling out of the California event, the final WTA 1000 tournament of the year. 

    The 25-year-old had indicated after her defeat at Flushing Meadows that she planned to play at Indian Wells. 

    Defending champion Bianca Andreescu heads a strong field, with world number two Aryna Sabalenka, Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, Olympic bronze medalist Elina Svitolina and last year's Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin all taking part. 

    Three other previous winners – Simona Halep, Elena Vesnina and Victoria Azarenka – will also be present, along with teenager Leylah Fernandez, who reached the US Open final. 

  • Clijsters beaten in Chicago in first match of latest comeback Clijsters beaten in Chicago in first match of latest comeback

    Kim Clijsters saw her latest WTA Tour comeback ended by Hsieh Su-wei at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic on Monday.

    The four-time grand slam champion, playing in her first match of 2021, was defeated 6-3 5-7 6-3 in a contest lasting two hours and 18 minutes on Stadium Court.

    Clijsters, who retired in 2012, made her return to the Tour last year, losing her three matches.

    After knee surgery at the end of 2020 and having contracted COVID-19 this year, the 38-year-old at last made her first appearance of the season but was bested in a gruelling contest by Australian Open quarter-finalist Hsieh.

    Speaking prior to her return in Chicago, Clijsters spoke of how she was drawing inspiration from Andy Murray, who continues on the ATP circuit despite two major hip surgeries.

    "Seeing Andy Murray and the way he speaks about his comeback and everything, it's so motivating and it gives you a lot of energy too," she said. "To see him go through the things he's gone through and be open about the challenges of it and the belief that he has, I feel like it's something I can relate to."

    Seeds Jessia Pagula, Danielle Collins and Veronika Kudermetova all progressed in Chicago on Monday, although home favourite Madison Keys had to retire from her match with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.