NEW YORK — While Naomi Osaka has become a global advocate for athletes’ mental health, she’s largely been known for her composure and poise on the court. That was not the case on Friday evening, when she lost to 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.
In the first set, Osaka looked balanced, confident, and aggressive. But things quickly started to fall apart for her toward the end of the second set, when No. 73 Fernandez climbed back from 0-40 to 40-40, hitting a backhand winner to send it into a tiebreak. Osaka made a litany of unforced errors in the tiebreak, and quickly dug herself into a significant hole.
She overhit a forehand to go down 0-3, and bent over and let out an agonizing scream. After going down 0-4, she threw her racket down in frustration, but received no warning or code violation. Down 0-5, after another unforced error, she slammed her racket down again, and again, received no warning or code violation.
She lost the tiebreak, 2-7, after making five unforced errors, and let out one final scream before leaving the court, with a towel covering her head. She stayed in a small bathroom by the court for a few minutes before returning.
Osaka left the court immediately after the match.
She broke through on the national tennis scene at Flushing Meadows when she beat Serena Williams in 2018 for the title. She added another Open crown in 2020, and also won the 2020 and 2021 Australian opens.
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She pulled out of this summer's French Open after just one match after receiving backlash for not participating in post-match news conferences, a decision she announced before the Grand Slam began.
Later, Osaka revealed she had been battling depression since the 2018 U.S. Open.
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