Osaka wants to channel Melbourne mindset in Paris

By Peter Hanson 24 May 2019 172
Osaka wants to channel Melbourne mindset in Paris

Naomi Osaka will attempt to channel her Melbourne mindset when she goes in search of a third consecutive grand slam at the French Open.

The world number one had her major breakthrough at last year's US Open and impressively backed that up by triumphing at the Australian Open early in 2019.

Her memorable victory over Petra Kvitova saw her become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to follow up a maiden slam with success at the following major.

Osaka was asked at a pre-French Open news conference whether she went into those tournaments believing she was going to win and if it is a mentality she has again for Roland Garros.

"The US Open, no," Osaka, who faces Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in round one, replied with a smile. "The US Open mainly because I lost three matches in a row before that. 

"Honestly, I just wanted to play well. Maybe get to the quarters, just have a good time. But then I ended up winning. 

"But in Australia, the goal was to win. That was what I was waking up every day thinking. Walk through the tunnel, like, you see the two trophies. I would kind of tap that, the woman's trophy side. 

"In the Australian Open, my mindset was very different from the US Open. For me here, I'm trying to emulate the same mindset. I don't want to be here thinking I want to get to the quarters. Of course, I have never been that far here before, but my end goal is to win, of course."

At 21, Osaka already has two slams and the world number one ranking on her tennis CV, but the Japanese admits she had to tame her huge ambitions.

"I feel really old, but actually, I'm 21," she added. "I feel like when I talk to you guys [the media], it's like I'm talking like I'm a 35-year-old person that's been through a lot. 

"So, for me it's always because I always had really big goals and dreams. I always thought I would be number one and win a grand slam when I was 18. 

"I know that sounds kind of crazy. When that didn't happen, I was a little bit depressed. I was thinking I'm kind of late to the party. 

"Then I kind of realised that everyone has their own path. I'm not really supposed to compare myself to anyone else and I should just keep working as hard as I can, and eventually I'll get to where I want to be."

Osaka met Rafael Nadal during a stint at the Spanish great's academy during her preparations for Paris, an experience she described as "really cool".

That venture was to boost her chances of success in the French capital, but Osaka also harbours long-term ambitions to go with her immediate goals. 

"Roland Garros [is the dream]. That, for me, is what I'm dreaming about right now," she said. 

"If you're talking about longer goals, of course I haven't won Wimbledon yet either, and it would be really cool to win everything in one year. 

"But also, the Olympics are coming up, too. We're not forgetting about that. I think there are so many things going on." 

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Peter Hanson