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February 20, 2021

Osaka swiftly shuts down Serena talkNaomi Osaka speaks at a press conference after winning her women’s singles final match. (Photo by Natasha Morello/AFP)

Filed under: Outdoors — admin @ 8:46 pm

She’s the reigning US and Australian Open champion, the highest-paid female athlete in the world and inspiring a generation, but Naomi Osaka insists her latest grand slam victory has done nothing to change her standing behind Serena Williams in the women’s game.

Osaka’s fourth grand slam title, which came after she vanquished Williams in the semi-finals, is being heralded as a changing of the guard.

The 23-year-old won her fourth slam from the last eight she’s contested with a comfortable 6-4 6-3 victory over Jennifer Brady of the United States in 77 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.

But she gave an emphatic response when asked in her post-match press conference: “A few weeks ago you said as long as she was playing Serena was the face of tennis. Do you think that this win and maybe even the win on Friday has begun to shift that at all?”

“No,” Osaka said, shaking her head. “Not at all.”

The four-word answer was comfortably the shortest of her half-hour long meeting with the media.

Later, Osaka promised not to be weighed down by “pressure and expectation” after her latest Grand Slam victory sparked talk she could end up winning 10 majors.

Osaka becomes only the third player after Monica Seles and Roger Federer to win their first four major finals, and will rise to second in the world rankings.

The Japanese sensation is now seen as the dominant force in women’s tennis, a view shared by seven-time Slam-winner Mats Wilander, who believes Osaka can win 10 Grand Slams.

“I’m taking it in sections. For right now, I’m trying to go for five,” Osaka said, when asked about Wilander’s comment.

“After five I would think about maybe dividing the 10, so maybe seven or eight.”

“I don’t like to take things big-picture,” Osaka added. “For me, I like to live in the moment.

“It’s an honour that he said that. But I don’t want to weigh myself down with pressure and expectations.”

Osaka has proven to be irresistible on hard courts after now winning twice at Melbourne Park and Flushing Meadows.

But she’s struggled elsewhere, having never made it past the third round on the French Open’s clay or Wimbledon’s grass courts.

“I feel like I have to get comfortable on those surfaces,” she said. “I didn’t grow up playing on grass at all.

“I honestly think I’d have better luck on clay, because I think last year I didn’t play bad at all.”

However, when asked where she was most likely to win her first non-hardcourt Grand Slam, Osaka said: “Hopefully clay because it’s the one that’s sooner.”

As her achievements grow, Osaka said she simply hoped to inspire the next generation.

“Hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favourite player,” she said.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get to play (her favourite player) Li Na. “I just think that’s how the sport moves forward.”

– with AFP


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