PARIS (AP) – A year ago, Naomi Osaka left Roland-Garros of her own free willnever beaten on the court but having determined that she had to retire before the second round to defend herself and protect her spirit.
Monday, Osaka left Roland Garros against her will – via a 7-5, 6-4 first-round loss to 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who is seeded 27th and also won her contest at the Australian Open in January – after taking a painkiller to try to deal with a troublesome left Achilles tendon. She tried to stretch the tendon by pulling on her neon yellow shoes during changes or squatting to flex her lower leg between points.
Osaka hasn’t been able to invoke the serve or court coverage his game is based on, in part because his training time and recent match play has been limited. The four-time Grand Slam champion and the former No. 1-ranked player, who is now ranked No. 38 and was unranked in Paris, double-faulted twice to end the matches and called the result “disappointing”.
Yet she also provided a measure of how her mindset might have changed since her previous major clay-court appearance, when she decided not to speak to the media at all ($15,000 fine and threat of further punishment, which prompted her to step down), claiming this position was due to anxiety and depression she had not previously disclosed. His openness at the time helped spark wider awareness and conversation about the importance of mental health.
“I’m really happy with myself,” Osaka said on Monday, “because I know the emotions I left France with last year.”
Barbora Krejcikova was also aware of the wide range of emotions she went through at Roland Garros from 2021 – when she was Grand Slam singles champion for the first time – to 2022 – when she joined Osaka on leaving. in the first round.
Krejcikova was seeded No. 2, but she had just suffered a right elbow injury that had kept her out of the tour since February, and her first game back started with a 4-0 lead before turning into a 1-6, 6-2, 6 -3 output against Diane Parry, a 19-year-old Frenchwoman ranked 97th and entering the day with a career 1-5 record in Grand Slam matches.
Krejcikova said she “hit the wall” early in the second set and never recovered, becoming the third woman in French Open history to be beaten in her opener match. opening a year after winning the title.
There were no other similarly significant results on day two, when the female winners included No. 1 Iga Swiatek, the 2020 champion; and other former great champions Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka and Bianca Andrescu. In men’s matches, 13-time champion Rafael Nadal won in three sets and No. 13 seed Taylor Fritz won in five.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic was scheduled to play on the night.
Just holding press conferences, before Friday’s tournament and after that loss, was a step forward for Osaka. She was comfortable talking about all sorts of topics, including her difficulties on clay and grass, the fact that she’s leaning to skip Wimbledon because there won’t be any ranking points offered there- down and the increased focus on protecting athlete well-being – even if the progress made in the last 12 months is not necessarily enough.
“I mean, I feel like there’s always more to do. You can’t progress and then stop. You know what I’m saying? There always has to be evolution,” Osaka said “But I feel like right now they’re doing their best, and I think that’s really nice to see.”
While Osaka’s best performances have come on hard courts, Anisimova’s best performance at a Slam came on the red clay at Roland Garros, where she reached the 2019 semi-finals aged 17. And while the occasional rain that delayed play for hours on Monday made tennis balls heavier and restricted what Anisimova felt she could do to deliver shots where she wanted them, she was good enough to advance in straight sets against a high-flying opponent.
“A lot of anticipation the last few days. I was trying not to think about it too much, but at the start of the game I felt a bit stressed and nervous, because it’s a very difficult first round,” Anisimova said. I’m just happy with how I was able to handle it and get through it.”
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