Naomi Osaka considering break from tennis, opens up after US Open loss

NEW YORK — Naomi Osaka, the reigning U.S. Open women’s champion and the world No. 3, doesn’t know when she’ll play her next tennis match.

Towards the end of a press conference on Friday night, after losing to 18-year-old, unseeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the third round, 7-5, 6-7 (2), 4-6, she shed tears while trying to articulate how she processes winning, losing, and this particular third-round loss. She ended the press conference by saying that she thinks she’ll take a break from playing “for a while.”

It’s been an atypical year for Osaka, who pulled out of both Wimbledon and the French Open this summer and saw the ripple effects of those decisions on the court in the Tokyo Olympics and now in this 2021 U.S. Open. After the match, Osaka described her return stats as “horrendous” and said overall, that she “didn’t play that well.” She tallied 36 unforced errors for the night. 

Entering Friday’s match, Osaka had won 16 straight Grand Slam matches, but got rattled when things started to go Fernandez’s way on the court. With a chance to close the match on her serve in the second set, Osaka was broken instead when she missed a forehand wide. That forced a tiebreaker, in which she made five unforced errors. 

Naomi Osaka gestures after missing a shot during her match against Leylah Fernandez.

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Osaka 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 exited the court between sets with a towel over her head.

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