By Ros Satar at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart

  • Naomi Osaka [1] def. Hsieh Su-Wei 6-4 6-3
  • Plays Donna Vekic in the quarter-final
STUTTGART, GERMANY – The Naomi Osaka whose quirky responses on the way to her Indian Wells title charmed the press has evolved into a more introspective person as she reveals after her opening win.

 

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Naomi Osaka [1] def. Hsieh Su-Wei 6-4 6-3

Stuttgart has never been the happiest of hunting grounds in the past for the current World No. 1 and top seed Naomi Osaka. She suffered a first round qualifying loss in 2016 and lost to British No. 1 Johanna Konta having come through qualifying in 2017, she admitted that in the past she has even had to duck out of at least one tournament on the clay having picked up injuries on the slick surface

READ MORE | Tennis | WTA Stuttgart | Finding your feet on the Stuttgart clay

However, while her past encounters with Hsieh Su-Wei have been three setters, and Hsieh undid the new world No. 1 in Miami most recently, it was a different story on an unfamiliar surface.

Osaka explained, after the match: “I didn’t feel like I was in control, but I felt like … I mean the way our games are set up she takes more risks than me and it pays off faster on hard court, so I felt like this surface is more suited for me and that sounds pretty weird, but I think that’s true. I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”

 

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Naomi Osaka in her post-final press conference after winning the BNP Paribas Open, WTA Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka of Japan talks to the media after the final of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open WTA Premier Mandatory tennis tournament

Since charming everyone on the way to her first and indeed biggest title at the tie, her quirky answers in press delivered one particular gem when she admitted she had become somewhat fixated on a commercial for people suffering with the condition mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs, if you must know!).

A year on and the experience of winning the US Open amidst controversy, backing it up at the Australian Open, but struggling with the pressures of being the World No. 1, there was still the old Osaka with the quirky answers at times, but with a dash of introspection.

She told reporters: “I’m really grateful for everyone that’s sort of has been really positive to me like during these past few months because it was really rough, and kid was depressed out here, you know. And I feel like just like having people that are constantly bringing light and positivity into your life, it really helps because you don’t know that you’re feeding of energy until you’re out … you like sort of look out of the situation you are in, I don’t know how to explain it.

“Definitely my parents [are some of the positive people in her life]. They actually started trusting me with a lot of responsibilities that I think they wouldn’t have before and I’m really grateful for them because I think, I don’t know, it’s tough as a parent, especially like a tennis parent, like you’re around your kids all the time and we’re not really mature, like other people go out of the house and stuff, at least for me. So, they’ve been really cool. My sister is definitely my favourite human being in the world.”

It most definitely has not all been plain sailing with her grabbing the top spot, but she has come to view it as a blessing in some respects too.

“The best is definitely knowing I get in at tournaments, not having to check, getting a Bye. Worst, I guess just like dealing with the expectations that I put on myself. But I think we’re good now.”

She will play Donna Vekic, and feels she has a slight advantage having spent some time in the Croatian’s company.

She said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to practice with her a couple of times and also to play matches against her. I mean I think the last time we practiced was during grass season and she’s a really tough person to play against. She has a good serve. There’s not really anything she’s bad at.

“So, I think keeping that in mind, I just have to focus on not having a temperament which is something that I’ve been … when I do well that’s like the main thing people notice.”
Osaka and Vekic are scheduled on Centre Court, not before 3pm (2pm BST).

 

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