She’s ranked No. 5 in the world, will enter the season-opening major as a reigning Grand Slam champion, and is trying not to sulk. A lot has happened for Naomi Osaka since she beat Serena Williams in the US Open final last September, and she’s still coming to terms with it. Mostly, it’s the expectations. She has reached the semifinals or better at four of her last five tournaments but hasn’t added another title.
A 6-2, 6-4 loss to No. 27-ranked Leisa Tsurenko on Saturday cost second-seeded Osaka a place in the Brisbane International final and a move up to the No. 3 world ranking _ which would be a record high for a player from Japan. “If I’m being really frank, I just feel like I had like the worst attitude today,” the 21-year-old Osaka said. “I feel like I didn’t really know how to cope with not playing well.”
She dropped two service games in the first and went down an early break in the second but had chances to get even in the sixth game, when she had two break points but committed a string of unforced errors and Tsurenko held for 4-2. Osaka kicked the air at one point and dropped her racket to the court after missing another, before visibly questioning how she could be getting it so wrong when her forehand skewed wide on game point.
“I was sulking a little bit, and like there are moments that I tried not to do that. But then the ball wouldn’t go in, and then I would go back to being like childish and stuff,” Osaka said. “So I think like that was sort of my main problem today. “I feel like last year I did a lot of that, and I’m trying to change it more, and I think I have _ like toward the end of last year. Hopefully this isn’t like a recurring thing.
Japanese flags were still waving in the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena for the next match, when No. 2-seeded Kei Nishikori defeated Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-2 in 66 minutes. “Felt very good physically and, tennis-wise, I think it was perfect,” Nishikori said.
He’ll play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, where he’s hoping to claim his first title since Memphis in 2016.
“I don’t want to say that this was my best tennis, but it was quite a high level,” Tsurenko said. “I feel I can kind of handle every kind of pressure on court now, even when someone like Naomi is playing really strong.”
Osaka is having to deal with different expectations now.
“Before, I would just be nervous to be there in a way, and now I feel nervous because I think I should win … and I feel like people expect me to win,” she said. “So that’s like an added amount of nerves. But, I mean, I feel like I’m getting used to it.”
Osaka will continue her preparations for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14 in Melbourne, with an emphasis on trying to not to sulk when things are going wrong.