MELBOURNE, Australia – Current US Open champion Naomi Osaka was serving to extend her third-round match against Hsieh Su-Wei when she turned her right foot as she ran for a ball and fell to the ground, prompting the judge from chair to question if she was okay
"No," Osaka replied, but she was laughing.
Osaka, 21, who was born in Japan and lives in Florida, had already squared once, regaining his game after losing the first set and falling behind 2-4, 0-40 in the second against Hsieh of Taiwan, one Great seed hunter with a slice of bed.
When getting up to keep Hsieh out 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, Osaka proved that she is more than O.K. She showed that she is maturing in front of everyone's eyes like a Polaroid image.
Anastasija Sevastova, the opponent of the 16 Osaka players, whom she defeated in three sets, after losing the first, in the quarterfinals of a tuneup event in Brisbane last month. Osaka fought with his composure from the beginning against Sevastova in what turned out to be the prelude to a sibilant attack.
In a semi-final loss in straight sets against Lesia Tsurenko, Osaka had no problems. He committed 26 unforced errors, broke three times and sulked between shots on a screen for which he apologized later on his Twitter account.
"I had the worst attitude on the court today," Osaka wrote. "I'm sorry to everyone who watched, I keep saying I should be more mature, but it seems like it will take a while."
Fast forward to Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne two weeks later. In the first set against Hsieh, Osaka produced 20 unforced errors and broke three times. So annoying was Osaka when he started that he kicked the racquet in the change before the second set, an act of petulance that resulted in him getting a code violation.
"Of course I would have preferred not to do that, and I really regret doing it," Osaka said. "But I hope to learn from that moment."
It seemed that Osaka had not learned anything from Brisbane when he was five points behind the loss. But something funny happened on his way to another discouraging outcome. Osaka laughed at his plight, and that moment of jubilation acted as a release valve, letting go of all the pressure that had been building since he sent Serena Williams in straight sets in New York to win her first major title.
Instead of feeling, as she said, "whether I win the game or I die," Osaka relaxed and began playing quieter and smarter points, making her way to the second week of the tournament.
"She was playing so well," Osaka said, referring to Hsieh, "and I think I felt overwhelmed, and then, at the beginning of the second set, I tried to do things that I know is not necessarily my game, as if I were trying to hit more balls. high and I do not even practice doing that. "
She added: "Then, after a while, I started thinking that I'm in a Grand Slam, I should not be sad," I'm playing against a great player, so I should enjoy my time and try to put all my energy into doing it. the best I can in each point. "
Both in its title and in 2018, in Indian Wells and in Flushing Meadows, Osaka won every first set. His overall record last year when he lost the first set was 2-19. So she is happy to have published two victories, against Sevastova and Hsieh, this month after a slow start.
"I think that the more games he plays in this way, the more difficult ones, then maybe as I go forward it does not seem so difficult," Osaka said, adding, "I'm happy with the way I fought." For me, that's one of the greatest things I always thought could be improved, because it seems like before I would accept defeat in some way. "
Hsieh presented a robust test because the bigger the stage, the better he seems to play. In last year's tournament, Hsieh defeated third-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza and former world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska before leading former world champion and former No. 1 Angelique Kerber to three sets.
But as Osaka showed against Serena Williams in her open final in the United States, she also embraces the big stage. "There's more attention during the Grand Slams, and more people come out than anywhere else," Osaka said. "It definitely makes me very happy, and I try to channel that in my tennis."
When Osaka is at home, he trains at the academy in Boca Raton, Florida, led by 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert and his brother John.
"She's very nice," Osaka said, referring to Evert. "Every time I see her, she shows up and says a lot of words of encouragement, so I'm very grateful for her."
Osaka's eyebrows danced while revealing a secret. Whatever advice Evert offers, Osaka absorbs it without a doubt. For some reason, he added astutely, his coach, Sascha Bajin and Evert can say exactly the same thing, but it really resonates when Evert says so.
"It's not that I'm bothering Sascha," Osaka said with a smile, "but I feel I should listen to it more in one way because … oh, I'm going to feel so much hate … I've seen what she did and she too He played, so he's a little more credible. "
Before the tournament began, Evert described Osaka as "reliable". And here Osaka is, just in time, two victories of a possible rematch with Williams in the semifinals.
Trusted? Yes, that is credible.