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JO: Osaka says the pressure is “a bit strong” after crashing



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Naomi Osaka has admitted she struggled to cope with the pressure of carrying a nation’s hopes into its home Olympics after losing in the third round of the women’s singles.

The 23-year-old lost to Czech Marketa Vondrousova in Tokyo on Tuesday.

She had hoped to play a leading role at the Games on and off the court.

But the lighting of the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony will remain the high point.

Osaka had looked good in their first two matches, especially against Viktorija Golubic on Monday, but former Roland Garros finalist Vondrousova was a cut above.

The young Czech put in an excellent performance under the roof at Ariake Tennis Park to win 6-1 6-4.

Vondrousova mixed her trademark shots with big serves and powerful groundstrokes and defended brilliantly when Osaka pitched her game in the second set.

The four-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t moved as well as she could, possibly a legacy of the eight-week break she took for mental health reasons ahead of this tournament.

Osaka said: “I really feel like there was a lot of pressure for it. I think maybe it’s because I never played in the Olympics before and for the first year ( it was) a bit too much.

“I think I’m happy with the way I played, to have taken that break that I had.

“I’ve already taken long breaks and managed to do well. I’m not saying I did wrong right now, but I know my expectations were much higher.

“I feel like my attitude was not very good because I don’t really know how to deal with this pressure. So that’s the best I could have done in this situation.

Osaka initially appeared to have left the site without speaking to the media.

In her post on social media before the French Open, where she announced that she would not speak to the press, she spoke out.

She had likened the press conferences after the losses to kicking someone when he was down.

However, she returned to answer questions and admitted it was a painful loss, saying, “I am disappointed with every loss, but I feel like this one fears more than the others.”

Osaka had won 25 of its last 26 hard court games, winning Grand Slam titles at the US Open and Australian Open.

In particular, given the early defeat of Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty, the stage looked set for her to claim arguably the biggest title of all.

But it is rather Vondrousova, 22, who reached her first Olympic quarter-final, where she will face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska.

Osaka, who had hoped to become the first Japanese female tennis player to win Olympic gold, had no response from Vondrousova in the first set.

She responded well at the start of the second with a break from duty.

But she was quickly pushed back and, although she saved two match points at 5-4, another followed and Osaka sent a wide backhand.

She will now focus on defending her title in New York, although Osaka added, “I’m a person who steals a lot. It is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. “

In another match of the competition, Stefanis Tsitsipas took revenge for his loss at Wimbledon to Frances Tiafoe by beating the American 6-3 6-4. (Dpa / NAN)

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