Naomi Osaka hopes for better returns after copying Djokovic style

Naomi Osaka hopes for better returns after copying Djokovic style

/ 06:52 PM February 14, 2024

Naomi Osaka tennis grand slam wta

FILE PHOTO:  Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her round of 32 match against Croatia’s Petra Martic in the Qatar Open. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari/File Photo

Naomi Osaka said she had taken a leaf out of Novak Djokovic’s tactical playbook and tweaked her return game at the Qatar Open after the former women’s world number one earned back-to-back wins for the first time in almost two years.

The 26-year-old from Japan struggled to find her rhythm after returning to the circuit last month following a 15-month break form the tour during which she had her first child.

Osaka lost in the second round in Brisbane in her first tournament back before falling at the first hurdle at the Australian Open and in Abu Dhabi.

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READ: Naomi Osaka avenges Australian Open loss to Garcia at Qatar Open

However, after beating 15th seed Caroline Garcia, who defeated her at Melbourne Park, in the Doha first round she showed glimpses of her best form in a 6-3 7-6(9) win over Petra Martic on Tuesday to reach the last 16.

A technical tweak may have helped, she said.

“I did change my return – I don’t want to say ‘style’ but I guess form. I don’t know how to describe it,” the four-times Grand Slam champion told reporters.

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

“Like, before I was taking one step, one step, and then jumping in, but now I’m just jumping in with both feet, because apparently Djokovic does that, so why not copy the best returner in the world?”

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Osaka, who last won two straight matches at tour level in 2022 at the Miami Open, said that a conversation with coach Wim Fissette sparked the adjustments to her game.

“It was frustrating knowing that my serve is one of the best serves, dare I say, in the world,” Osaka added.

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“But I just really wanted to work on the things I know should be a lot better and the return was one of them. We were talking about it a lot in the off-season and leaving Melbourne, definitely needed to improve it.”

Osaka takes on Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko later on Wednesday.

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