Osaka feeling free for Wimbledon challenge

Oleh Dom Farrell 18 Jun 2019 215
Osaka feeling free for Wimbledon challenge

Naomi Osaka hopes a sense of freedom will pay dividends as she gets her grass court season underway in the Birmingham Classic on Tuesday.

Reigning US Open and Australian Open champion Osaka faces the dangerous world number 33 Maria Sakkari in her opening match of the tournament.

The 21-year-old's quest for a third consecutive major ended in the third round at the French Open where she fell in straight sets to Katerina Siniakova, having come from a set down to overcome Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Victoria Azarenka in the earlier rounds at Roland Garros.

Nevertheless, Osaka is keen to take the positives from a clay campaign that saw her reach the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome, with improving on her previous best of round three at Wimbledon something of a lower bar than she has been aiming for of late.

"It's the best clay court season I've ever had, if I take aside the disappointing French," Osaka told WTA.com. "But it's not like I lost in the first round and I kind of want to take that positively.

"I just want to enjoy myself. Maybe during the clay season I was thinking too much about my performance or results. Now I feel free.

"People are saying I could do really well here and that's sort of what I'm aiming for but I think I have to learn how to get comfortable [on grass].

"I don't think there's really a blueprint you can look at because not everyone's games or mentalities are the same.

"Playing at Wimbledon for me is definitely a memory because it's something you've watched on TV as a kid and when you go there it's just so full of tradition.

"I just remember losing to people who go to finals. Hopefully this time I'll be the person who goes to the finals."

Last year, Osaka lost to eventual winner Angelique Kerber at SW19, while Venus Williams beat her on the way to the final in 2017.

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