Naomi Osaka shakes off recent losses ahead of U.S. Open title defence
23-year-old eyeing 3rd U.S. Open title after early exits at Olympics, Cincinnati Masters
Naomi Osaka did not appear to be too worried over her recent run of poor results in the run up to the U.S. Open and remained confident about chances of successfully defending her title at Flushing Meadows.
The world number three picked up the Australian Open title in February but after withdrawing from the French Open and skipping the grass court season to protect her mental health, she has struggled to regain her top form over the past month.
Early defeats at both the Tokyo Olympics and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati raised questions about the four-time Grand Slam champion's form.
'Happy with how I'm playing'
However, the 23-year-old Japanese power hitter said she was happy with her game.
"I feel pretty happy with how I'm playing. I thought I played two really tough matches in Cincinnati," Osaka told reporters at Flushing Meadows.
Osaka is a perennial threat on Arthur Ashe since hoisting her maiden major trophy at the hard court major three years ago, as world number one Ash Barty acknowledged.
"Naomi is a pure ball-striker. When she has time to set up particularly after her first serve, she's one of the best first-serve, first-strike players I've ever come up against," said Barty.
"On a hard court, there's not a lot of variation on the bounce. She can set up, trust the bounce, and really swing through the line. I think that's what makes her so damaging on these courts."
Advocate for athletes' mental health
Her arrival in Flushing also comes amid new focus on athletes' mental health. Osaka withdrew from the French Open in June after being fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to attend media conferences, saying her mental health was adversely impacted by the press obligations.
"I feel like there's a lot of things that I did wrong in that moment, but I'm also the type of person that's very in the moment," said Osaka.
"There's a lot of things that I learned to do better. Of course, I don't feel the same situation will happen again."