Naomi Osaka admitted that she found it frustrating to play outside her comfort zone on clay as the world number two continued her warm-up for the French Open at the WTA tournament in Rome.
Osaka has never won a tour-level event on red soil while at Roland Garros, which begins on May 30, she has yet to make it through the third round.
The quadruple Japanese Grand Slam champion was kicked out of the Madrid Open in the second round last week, after taking nearly a month off after her quarter-final exit in Miami.
“I don’t know if I should tell you this, but I’m just not comfortable with (clay) yet, and I don’t know if it’s because I need to play on it longer. or if I don’t. I didn’t grow up on it, ”Osaka said at a press conference in Rome on Sunday.
Osaka has only made two appearances on clay since the 2019 French Open after skipping last year’s Grand Slam due to injury.
“Mentally, it’s a little more difficult because you have to structure the points differently,” she continued.
“There are bad rebounds and stuff. I am quite frustrated. So, yeah, mentally I think it’s a bit more taxing.
“But I think as soon as I get that kind of a block out of my mind, then I’ll be more open to mistakes.
“Right now I’m taking everything as a learning process, and I’m trying not to be so hard on myself. “
Osaka is in the same half of the draw as four-time Rome winner Serena Williams, who has not played since losing to Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals, and defending champion Simona Halep of Romania.
Previously, she started in the second round against Daria Kasatkina, 37th ranked Russian, or against the American Jessica Pegula, world number 33.
“Honestly, I think that’s why I’m here to prepare for the match,” said Osaka, whose best performance in the tournament was a quarter-final in 2019.
And she welcomed the extra week of warm-up before Roland Garros, even if it means less time at home before the Tokyo Olympics.
“At first I was a little sad because it means more time away from home.
“But at the same time, I feel like I need more time on clay, especially with my past results. I hope I will do better here.
“But I’m not really mad at, I guess, the grinding on clay and practicing here for a few more weeks. “
© 2021 AFP