Four days before the French Open, Tokyo Open finalist Naomi Osaka and her parents joined the throng of American players at the Western & Southern Open, where she lost Tuesday 6-1, 7-5 to 20-year-old Australian Daria Gavrilova. It was Osaka’s second consecutive loss to the player ranked 19th in the world, following a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 defeat in the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week.
It’s another young player to get outfoxed by the game’s young guns. Gavrilova is a rising star in a sport filled with ones, with the same rabid fan base the WTA has seen in Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens. Osaka, 19, is even younger.
I think I have no choice [competing against the 20-somethings] because everybody’s like 15 years older. I’m not even competing against my age. Like, if you saw a man in a women’s match there, I don’t think he’d even make it to a national team. The top 10 have so much experience on the tour and they know how to play. I mean, Naomi had to learn and there’s no such thing as that on tour. You know, you’re struggling. I wish I had that experience as a player when I was younger, I’d be a very good player. At 19, I wouldn’t be too good.
The loss for Osaka, unseeded, this week sent her into an Open Court fight. A video posted on her Instagram account Tuesday after she arrived at the Cincinnati tennis tournament shows her sitting up with a grin across her face, shortly after she learned she’d lost to Gavrilova.
“She’s a nice lady,” Gavrilova said of Osaka after the match. “She’s a very nice player. I don’t like beating her. The other players didn’t want to beat her. … She kept telling me, ‘That’s not your best serve. That’s not your best shot.’ She kept giving me little tactics, and I was playing three different games trying to catch her off guard.”
By Tuesday night, Osaka had pulled herself together. On Tuesday afternoon, after she arrived back at Cincinnati International Airport, she made a short speech to a group of reporters:
I didn’t expect this match to happen. I’m just very sad about the loss. And I actually want to come home and play again tomorrow, but I feel like it’s too late. But it’s OK. I’m playing a little bit better. I have to keep fighting. My parents were there. My sisters were there. So, I can sleep at night. But it was really embarrassing. It was super embarrassing. It was not my best game. I’m not really happy with my game today. But I know I can play better.
Up next, Osaka will face fifth-seeded Maria Sharapova, playing her first competitive match since serving a 15-month ban for doping.