US Open: Tearful Osaka says 'I'm going to take a break' from tennis after imploding in New York

By Sports Desk September 04, 2021

Naomi Osaka's short-term future appears away from the tennis court after the tearful former world number one said she plans to "take a break from playing for a while" following her shock US Open elimination.

Osaka's US Open title defence came to a remarkable end after imploding in Friday's surprise 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 loss to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez.

Up a set and serving for the match at 6-5 on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Osaka lost her cool and composure after throwing her racquet three times in an unsuccessful second-set tie-break.

Amid boos in New York, Osaka was also warned after hitting a ball into the crowd and while the four-time major champion tried to dig herself out of a hole, she crashed out in incredible fashion.

It comes following a difficult couple of months due to mental health concerns as a result of "long bouts of depression" since winning the 2018 US Open.

Osaka withdrew from May's French Open having won her first-round match, after she was fined and threatened with further punishment – and possible expulsion from the grand slam – for skipping obligatory media duties.

The Japanese star subsequently pulled out of Wimbledon before returning for the Olympic Games, though she suffered a surprise loss on home soil in Tokyo and was reduced to tears during a news conference in Cincinnati.

During an emotional post-match news conference, Osaka told reporters: "I'm going to say what we said, I think, like, in the hallway. How do I go around saying this?

"I feel like for me recently, like, when I win I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don't think that's normal. I didn't really want to cry.

"I feel like… this is very hard to articulate. I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match [tearing up]. Sorry."

Osaka – who was bidding to become the first woman to defend the US Open since Serena Williams in 2014 – added: "I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while."

Typically reserved and quiet, Osaka was uncharacteristically frustrated on court – the 23-year-old immediately left the court and emerged with a towel over her head before the start of the final set.

On her outburst, Osaka said: "I'm really sorry about that. I'm really sorry about that. I'm not really sure why.

"I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point. Like normally I feel like I like challenges. But recently I feel very anxious when things don't go my way, and I feel like you can feel that. I'm not really sure why it happens the way it happens now.

"It's basically why. You could kind of see that. I was kind of like a little kid."

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  • Australian Open: 'I'm good at being me' – Barty will continue to play her own game in bid for Melbourne glory Australian Open: 'I'm good at being me' – Barty will continue to play her own game in bid for Melbourne glory

    World number one Ash Barty promised to carry on playing her own game after booking her spot in the last eight of the Australian Open.

    Barty, the top seed, defeated Amanda Anisimova 6-4 6-3 on Sunday to progress to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for a fourth successive time.

    Anisimova defeated last year's champion Naomi Osaka in the last round, but she proved no match for Barty, who sealed the win in 74 minutes.

    Barty did see her run of holding serve ended, however, after 63 games without being broken, though it was a minor blip in another convincing win. 

    Indeed, the 25-year-old has now won all four of her Australian Open ties without dropping a set.

    Asked what was key to her dominant form, Barty said: "I think the most important thing is I just try to be me, continue to be me, that's all I can do.

    "That's what I’m good at, that's who I and who I want to be."

    Her comments were well received by the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, and Barty is delighted to be playing in front of spectators once again.

    "The last two years have been extraordinarily tough for a lot of people around the world," she said.

    "To have the crowd here, it brings a lot more to the tennis. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to play at home."

    Barty struck seven aces and registered a first-serve percentage of 78, while also hitting 23 winners and making exactly half the amount of unforced errors as Anisimova (17 to 34).

    "Amanda is an incredible athlete and incredible competitor. It's nice to see her back playing her best tennis," Barty continued.

    "I enjoyed sharing the court with her and testing myself against her. It was nice to be able to hold firm tonight."

    Asked in a post-match news conference about dropping serve for the first time in eight matches, Barty replied: "It didn't bother me too much.

    "Honestly, I'm not counting how many games I hold in a row or not. The fact I was able to reset, break straight back, was really important, just to be able to reset myself, go again and continue to do the right things."

    Next up for Barty, a two-time major winner who is yet to taste victory in her home grand slam, is another American in the form of Jessica Pegula, who upset fifth seed Maria Sakkari 7-6 (7-0) 6-3.

    "It's going to be a challenge for me to try and push her off that baseline and make her uncomfortable and feel like she has to create," Barty told reporters.

    "But I know that she's also going to be doing the exact same thing to me and trying to make me uncomfortable.

    "That's the chess game that we play. You go out there and have fun with it, see who can execute better on the day, and that's about all there is to it."

  • Australian Open: Shapovalov honoured to be facing Nadal as Zverev admits 'everything' went wrong Australian Open: Shapovalov honoured to be facing Nadal as Zverev admits 'everything' went wrong

    Denis Shapovalov said it is a privilege to be facing Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-finals after his win over Alexander Zverev, who conceded "everything" went wrong.

    Zverev had been looking sharp in Melbourne over the last week, with the world number three not dropping a single set en route to the last 16.

    Yet the Olympic gold medallist was on the end of a straight-sets loss on Sunday as he went down 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 to Shapovalov.

    Zverev made 32 unforced errors, five fewer than Shapovalov, and managed to convert only two of five break points, with the German winning 46/67 first-serve points.

    Asked what went wrong, Zverev bluntly told reporters: "Everything.

    "It's no one else's fault. It's not the coach's fault, it's not my team's fault, it's no one else's fault. It's purely me.

    "As world number three, I have to take responsibility for the things I do and don't do.

    "I give credit to Denis. It's incredible that he's in the quarters, I think he deserves it. He's done a lot of work, improved his game.

    "But I've got to look at myself. Today was just, in my opinion, awful from my side."

    Shapovalov had lost to Zverev in the ATP Cup earlier this month, but after Sunday's win the duo's head-to-head record stands at 4-3 in the latter's favour.

    The 22-year-old Canadian will now face Nadal, with the 20-time grand slam winner having progressed to his 14th Australian Open final by defeating Adrian Mannarino.

    Nadal holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against Shapovalov, though this will be the first time the pair have met in a major.

    "It's always an honour to go up against a guy like Rafa," said Shapovalov after reaching his first Australian Open quarter-final.

    "It's always going to be a battle against him. It's going to be a tough one and I'm definitely going to enjoy it."

    Reflecting on just his second career win over a player in the top five, Shapovalov said: "I think off the ground I was playing really well, really feeling my shots off both wings.

    "I played pretty smart, it felt like things were going my way early on. I lost a little bit of momentum midway in the second set but fought well to come back and just kind of rolled with it after."

    It was also the first time in the tournament that Shapovalov had not had to go to at least four sets.

    "It's probably the one I least expected to finish in three. I'm very happy with my performance, definitely happy with where my game is at," he added.

  • Australian Open: Barty bests Anisimova to ease through to quarter-finals Australian Open: Barty bests Anisimova to ease through to quarter-finals

    Ash Barty's dominant form at the Australian Open continued as the world number one saw off Amanda Anisimova to reach the quarter-finals.

    Anisimova shocked 2021 champion Naomi Osaka in the last round but the in-form Barty proved a step too far on Sunday.

    Barty had not dropped a set in any of her previous matches and the Australian continued that trend with a 6-4 6-3 triumph that took just 74 minutes.

    The 25-year-old missed five chances to break before she finally nosed herself ahead in a tightly contested first set when Anisimova went long.

    Anisimova made the same mistake in the next game, failing to grasp the opportunity for an immediate response, and Barty struck a forehand winner to claim the set.

    World number 60 Anisimova responded by racing into a 40-0 lead at the start of the second set, only for some sloppy shots to allow Barty to haul herself level.

    The American held her nerve though and looked to be right back into it when she broke Barty in the next game.

    Yet two-time major winner Barty hit straight back, with a missed backhand from Anisimova gifting her a reprieve, and she did not look back, holding serve before breaking again to go 4-3 ahead.

    Anisimova saved two match points in her win over Osaka, yet another overhit backhand sent Barty through to a tie against Jessica Pegula at the first time of asking.

    DATA SLAM: BARTY'S HOLD STREAK OVER

    There was one negative for Barty, who failed to hold serve for the first time in 63 games when she was broken in the second set. However, the Queenslander responded to that streak ending with a display of her title-winning quality to reach a fourth successive Australian Open quarter-final.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 23/17
    Anisimova – 20/34

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 7/3
    Anisimova – 4/1

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 4/11
    Anisimova – 1/5

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