How Naomi Osaka’s Loss Gives Tokyo Its Latest Olympic Setback
During her brief career, 23-year-old Osaka has grown far beyond tennis, a sport in which she has already won four majors.
Daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian father who was largely raised in the United States, she is the symbol of a more tolerant and multicultural Japan, a voice for black America, women’s equality and athlete power, and she’s an aspiring fashion icon. who featured on the cover of Vogue and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
But as she knows better than anyone, star power can’t guarantee victories, especially given the state of women’s tennis, a very open game lately with rare depth.
Osaka has twice won the Australian Open and the US Open, but the Olympic tournament has been difficult to solve even for some of football’s greatest players. You have to win six games in just eight days. Roger Federer has never won the gold medal.
With her face on billboards all over Tokyo, the Olympic tournament was always going to be as important as anything she played this year, like Andy Murray’s gold medal run in London. in 2012, when the competition was held at Wimbledon. It got bigger again in March, when asked to light the Olympic Stadium flame.
But the potential for a storybook ending fizzled out in 68 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, when, for extended stretches early in the game, Osaka struggled to keep the ball in play. She committed 20 errors in the set, 14 of which were unforced, and couldn’t count on her serve to take control of the game as she usually does.
The loss stunned the handful of people in attendance at Ariake Tennis Park, where a phalanx of Japanese photographers lined the court. Osaka was one of the favorites to win the tournament at home, especially after No.1 Ashleigh Barty was knocked out in the first round and when other top players lost in round 2.
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