Reconnecting with her family—and living life outside the tennis bubble in South Florida—helped Naomi Osaka recharge ahead of clay-court season.
The second-ranked Osaka launched her clay campaign with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over qualifier Misaki Doi in an all-Japanese opener at the Mutua Madrid Open.
Afterward, Osaka said following her dispiriting Miami Open quarterfinal final loss to Maria Sakkari spending time with her parents lifted her spirits.
The four-time Grand Slam champion is based in Los Angeles, while her parents live in Florida so their reunion this spring was the first full week they’d spent together in a couple of years.
“Actually after Miami I was able to spend time with my parents for, I would say, a solid week,” Osaka said in Madrid. “It’s honestly been maybe two years since I was able to do that, so I felt like it really helped me out. I felt really rejuvenated.
“And then I don’t know. I was just able to calm down and look at life from a non-bubble perspective, so it was really nice. When I finally came back to tennis I felt like it was something that I really wanted to do as opposed to looking at the watch and seeing that it was time to practice.”
The 23-year-old Osaka said time off from tennis helped her return to the practice court with enthusiasm.
“For me, it was really important because I feel like I do better when I’m able to take time and analyze. And especially in the Miami loss, I felt like I was just too…I don’t know how to describe it, but I felt like everything was sort of loud in my head,” Osaka said. “So I just wanted to take the time and feel grateful to be on the court and be excited to come back and play a tournament.”
To that end, Osaka and coach Wim Fissette have been working on refining her footwork for clay though she suggested practice time may have been limited.
“I actually didn’t train for that long, but I’m not going to say how long I trained because it really depends if I do well in this tournament,” Osaka said. “But, yeah, I would say that we really worked hard for the time that I did train.
“I did a lot with Yutaka, like sliding and not really weights but more body weight things. I think he definitely really helped me out a lot. And just being with Wim on the court a lot and learning from him, I think it really benefited me.”
Photo credit: Alberto Nevado/Mutua Madrid Open