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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday May 9, 2021

 
Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka continues her quest to raise her game on clay this week in Rome. It's more mental than physical, she says.

Photo Source: Madrid Open/ Angel Martinez

Another step in the evolution of Naomi Osaka the clay-court player will be taken this week in Rome, where the four-time major champion will look to navigate a tricky draw in Rome that could see her face Jennifer Brady in the third round and Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

Tennis Express

But for Osaka, who fell to Karolina Muchova in the second round at Madrid, struggling to win matches on the surface is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I feel like that's the reason why I'm here for match prep,” she told reporters in Rome on Sunday. “I think, you know, actually in a weird way I'm kind of glad I'm not winning. I know that sounds a bit off, but I feel like I'm learning a lot. It kind of gives me a lot of drive to practice harder and to learn from all my practices.I don't take it in a bad way that I haven't played a lot of matches.”

Just Not that Comfortable on Clay

Osaka only has 33 matches on clay in her career (19-14), and just once in 14 events has she reached a semifinal (Stuttgart 2019). She says it is just a matter of trust for her on clay.

“I would say it's not even like a matter of transitioning from surfaces but it's more like me trusting myself,” she said. “I feel like there are things that I have improved, but the comfortability, I'm not sure if I should be telling you this, but I'm just not that comfortable on it still, and I'm not sure if it's because I need to play longer on it or if I just haven't grown up on it.”

Osaka views it partially as a psychological impediment, one that she plans to chip away at over time. She just needs to get to a place where she accepts the reality and he difficulties that the surface brings.

“I think as soon as I get that sort of block out of my mind, then I'll be more open to the mistakes,” she said. “I'll be more open to the bad bounces and stuff like that. So as of right now, I'm taking everything as a learning process, and I'm trying not to be so hard on myself.”

 

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