Naomi Osaka trying not to feel 'a failure' after early Abu Dhabi exit

Naomi Osaka trying not to feel ‘a failure’ after early Abu Dhabi exit

/ 03:40 PM February 07, 2024

Naomi Osaka  Tennis

Naomi Osaka of Japan drops her rocket during a match against Danielle Collins at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open tennis tournament, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Naomi Osaka said she was trying not to feel “like a failure” after her comeback hit another roadblock with a 7-5, 6-0 defeat to former world number seven Danielle Collins in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Open on Tuesday.

“I say some pretty harsh words about myself. I know the word, but if I say it, it sounds really bad. I felt a little like a ‘failure’, but I don’t want to be too harsh,” Osaka told AFP in the UAE capital after her straight sets defeat.

The Japanese star returned last month from a 15-month absence from the tour, during which she gave birth to her first child Shai, but has been handed some tricky draws and lost three of her four matches so far this campaign.

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The former world number one also lost in straight sets in the doubles later on Tuesday, alongside Ons Jabeur, but feels that performance helped her shake off her earlier disappointment.

“I’m less confident but I’m not too unconfident to think that I can’t play really good tennis,” four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka said.

“I really think I just need to get through a really tough match and then sort of acknowledge that that’s going to happen quite a couple of times.”

READ: Naomi Osaka’s love for tennis rekindled as she makes comeback

Despite a close opening set that witnessed supreme serving from both players, Osaka struggled in her service games in the second set and failed to convert any of her six break point opportunities to fall to the American qualifier in one hour and 23 minutes.

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“Everyone around me is telling me I’m playing well and I don’t think I’m playing bad,” she continued.

“I just need to believe in myself more and I think as soon as I got broken my belief dipped a lot.”

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 ‘Next chapter’

Naomi Osaka Abu Dhabi Open

Naomi Osaka of Japan and Ons Jabeur of Tunisia talks during a doubles match against Magda Linette from Poland and Bernarda Pera from the U.S. at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open tennis tournament, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Osaka will next head to Doha for the Qatar Open and says she “might have to play Dubai” but is unsure as of yet.

Meanwhile, Collins improved her head-to-head record against Osaka to 2-3 and will take on top-seeded Elena Rybakina in the second round.

The 30-year-old Collins has announced this will be her final season on tour and has herself navigated some brutal draws in her first five weeks of 2024.

READ: Naomi Osaka just wants to have fun on Grand Slam return

At the Australian Open, she beat three-time major winner Angelique Kerber before falling to world number one Iga Swiatek in round two.

She has been handed two more grand slam champions in Abu Dhabi in the form of Osaka and 2022 Wimbledon winner Rybakina.

Collins said wanting to live a normal life away from the constant travel and the daily grind on tour was the main reason behind her decision to retire at the end of the season.

“At this point I feel like I’m ready for the next chapter and I’m really excited about it,” she said.

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“I needed to have an end date and it gives my family and friends the ability to come support me in some final tournaments. I think that will be really special,” said the player from Florida.

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