STARNBERG, July 27, 2021
Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the women’s singles tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round.
Vondrousova, the runner-up of the 2019 French Open, is ranked 42nd in the world. She defeated world No. 2 Naomi Osaka in just 1 hour and 8 minutes of play. As a result, Vondrousova became the first player to advance to the quarter-finals.
In the third round of competition at the Ariake Tennis Park, Vondrousova defeated Osaka 6-1, 6-4. It was a hugely anticipated encounter, and the stakes were high for the Japanese to deliver at home soil.
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After missing both the French Open and Wimbledon due to a two-month mental health sabbatical, Osaka, 23, handily won her first two rounds of play. She beat China’s Zheng Saisai on Saturday. On Monday, she defeated Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, who was ranked 49th.
Osaka entered the Olympics as a favorite to win gold, and she admitted to feeling under pressure following her loss. “I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss,” Osaka said, “but I feel like this one sucks more than the others.”
She added: “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year, [it] was a bit much.”
Face of Tokyo Premature Elimination
For a brief moment, deep in the second set of what would out to be Naomi Osaka’s most painful defeat of the year, it appeared like she had tapped into the tenacity that has served her so well throughout her career.
She saved successive match points, one with a blistering forehand winner, and creeped up to a position of maintaining her serve, down a set and serving to stay in the Olympics.
But, as had been the case during a long, sluggish day on the court, the determination was lacking. The mental reservoir was depleted. Soon after, she ended the match with two of her frequent backhand mistakes, putting an end to her hopes of capturing an Olympic gold medal on home soil in Japan. Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic beat her 6-1, 6-4.
This may have gone differently under normal conditions, as normal as being the face of the Olympics can be. But, in addition to the pressure that has been building since the beginning of the year, the sort of pressure that Osaka has flourished under in the past, it also came after her decision to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon in order to focus on her mental health.
The clamour was loud even as she went back to the United States after her choice to avoid press briefings in Paris drew widespread attention and condemnation. The Olympics’ pressure cooker was no help. Her failure appeared to be the result of a combination of all of those pressures.
Osaka exited the court by a side door rather than the mixed zone, as players are expected to do even if they do not stop to talk with the media. She had first stated that she would not be returning. The Japanese Tennis Federation reportedly intervened and persuaded Osaka to return, according to Tokyo Sports.