Osaka pleased by steady progress despite French Open disappointment

PARIS : Naomi Osaka came close to dumping top seed Iga Swiatek out of Roland Garros on Wednesday and the former world number one said she was sure the best display of her comeback season could spur her to climb into the top five again.

The 26-year-old Japanese player has slipped down the world rankings and is currently 134th, having returned to the tour in January after a 15-month break during which she had her first child, and she has endured patchy form in the last few months.

After early losses on clay in Rouen and Madrid, Osaka went on to reach the Rome fourth round, embracing her least favourite surface in a bid to succeed at Roland Garros, where she lost 7-6(1) 1-6 7-5 to Swiatek in a high-octane second-round clash.

“After I lost in Madrid, I remember asking my team if they thought I could ever be a top-five player again,” Osaka, a four-times Grand Slam champion, told reporters.

“Granted, I didn’t make it to the quarter-finals or the semi-finals here, I feel like I’m on my way back there. For me, that’s the biggest positive.”

Osaka squandered a match point against defending champion Swiatek at 5-3 in the decider and said she was reduced to tears afterwards but was encouraged by the progress she had made.

“Honestly, it’s not the worst (feeling). I’ve felt worse, for sure. I cried when I got off the court but I realise I was watching Iga win this tournament last year and I was pregnant. It was just my dream to be able to play her,” Osaka said.

She also looked forward to the American hardcourt swing and a return to the U.S. Open, which she won in 2018 and 2020.

“I think I’m doing pretty well. And I’m also just trying not to be too hard on myself. I feel like I played her on her better surface. I’m a hardcourt kid, so I would love to play her on my surface and see what happens,” she added.

“I also said in Australia that I’m setting myself up for September anyway.”

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