Naomi Osaka is maintaining a tenuous hold on the number 1 ranking in the WTA, the world’s association of tennis for women. Naomi has struggled lately, losing in the second round to Yulia Putinsteva 2-6 and 3-6 in the Birmingham Classic, a tune up tournament on grass leading to the Grand Slam Wimbledon tournament in London. She is being chased by Ashleigh Barty who won the French Open for the no. 1 ranking. If Barty wins the Classic in Birmingham she will be the new no. 1 player.
Naomi Osaka who is of Japanese Haitian descent is feeling the weight of being the number 1 player in the world. She is doing a great job representing both cultures which she embraces and she is fighting hard to maintain her ranking. Being the target of all the other players and having all of them look at your match as a stepping stone creates a level of pressure which is visibly affecting Naomi’s energy level. She is refreshingly candid and forthcoming when looking at upcoming events but this works against her as it allows her opponents to feel less threatened. When Naomi admitted that grass was new to her and that she did not expect to really shine it led to opponents being more confident when they approacher her. Reporters are always looking for a story and they will spin your answers to fit any particular narrative they choose, so Naomi needs to really measure her replies on this stage.
As this was the only tournament on grass Naomi scheduled before Wimbledon, losing so early can be a blessing because she will be well rested for the July 1 start of play. She needs to do well in the All England Club tournament if she wants to hold on to the number 1 ranking notwithstanding Barty who can become no. 1 if she wins Birmingham. But if Naomi does not do well in London she may fall as far down as no. 4 or 5, so she needs to buckle down and do well in this Grand Slam. To succeed on grass you have to serve well, and this is one of Osaka’s strong point. She needs to serve up a storm and reach into her Boukman spirit to strike fear in her opponents. As her Capois La Mort energy reaches the fever point she will find it within herself to answer the call of the ancestors and find the resolve to win the last point and be the last woman standing. Forget about having an opponent across the net, she is only fighting herself and her mental enemies because the one on the other side is not making unforced errors. Lately Naomi has made a lot of those and she has shown signs of fatigue. So, hard practice and to bed early will bring her the trophy. After losing early in the French Open Osaka has to approach Wimbledon with a new approach. She needs to cut down on the errors which show a mental breakdown and serve better. Her opponents are starting to approach playing her with confidence rather than trepidation because she has not done well lately, so this is the time to really strap herself in and lead the field.