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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday March 17, 2021

Naomi Osaka is already a dominant force on the WTA Tour, but she hasn’t yet expanded her empire to the clay and grass. A quick glance at the stats shows that she is 10-7 lifetime at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon combined, and she has lost all five of her third-round matches at those two majors.

Tennis Express

Osaka hasn’t beaten a Top 20 player (0-4) at either Slam and she simply doesn’t have the reps on either surface—or the comfort that comes with it.

But Martina Navratilova believes that things can change quickly for Osaka. She told Tennis Now, during a conference call to promote Tennis Channel’s first ball to last ball coverage of the Miami Open, that the surfaces play more similarly than ever these days.

“The potential is there, no doubt about it,” Navratilova said. “The surfaces are much more similar than they used to be. Grass is slower, clay is faster, the balls are faster. You don't have to make nearly as much of an adjustment as you used to.”

Navratilova says that Osaka simply needs to get more comfort in her movement to be successful on clay.

“I don't see Naomi being that confident with her sliding,” she said. “But then Andre Agassi won the French Open without sliding. It can be done. But it just makes life easier when you slide and you're comfortable with timing with your strokes.”

The 18-times major champion believes that Osaka can win on any surface with her booming baseline game.

“There's no doubt that she has the game to win both on the clay and the grass,” she said. “I think she's still learning when to pull the trigger on the clay. Grass, there is no reason for her not to dominate on grass, as well. The kick serve is great for grass. It's magnified by bad bounces, the kick. Her big shots pay off better on grass than the other surfaces, other than maybe a fast court like was in Australia this year.”

Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion who was a tour de force on grass over the course of her legendary career, says that Osaka just needs more reps to get comfortable with moving and timing the ball on grass.

In three main draw appearances at SW19, Osaka is 4-3 lifetime with two third-round appearances. Time will fix that winning percentage, Navratilova believes.

“The sky's the limit,” Navratilova said. “It's just a matter of putting in the time and getting more instinctual on the surface, that's all. Especially grass, because you only have that one tournament. I think maybe she needs to get on the grass during the year, not just before Wimbledon, to get more comfortable with it, so it's like coming home. We used to have two grass court seasons, in Australia and at Wimbledon in Europe. You had like two months on the surface, so six weeks. Now they have two to three weeks on it. It shows up. They're not that comfortable on it. She just needs the mileage on it. Game-wise there's not that much of an adjustment to make.”