Naomi Osaka gallantly loses in Cincinnati Open first round
- Naomi Osaka was not at her finest during the match with Zhang Shuai
- She lost to Chinese Zhang Shuai
- Her US Open debut will be seedless and bleak too
Naomi Osaka, a former world No. 1 was defeated by Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 7-5 early Wednesday, dealing a major blow to her preparations for the U.S. Open.
Osaka has had a rocky comeback from an Achilles injury, having already been eliminated in the first round in Toronto last week due to lower back issues and this being only her third tournament back.
Zhang, who won the doubles title in Cincinnati last year, finally won the singles title in the city for the first time since 2014.
The Chinese player described Osaka as a fantastic player adding that she was not at her finest at the game.
Osaka of Japan, playing in the opening match on Centre Court, got things off to a slow start by double-faulting on her opening serve, giving Zhang a break.
Zhang, 33, won the first set with the help of the early break. She then went on to win the match after taking a 2-1 lead in the second set thanks to Osaka’s persistent ineptitude.
At 5-4 in the final set, Osaka eventually broke through to even the score, only to have her opponent, Zhang, respond by breaking back and taking the lead.
Zhang had another chance to serve for the match and did not waste it, this time winning with an ace.
Osaka got her serve going, firing down 10 aces, but that was about all she did well. The four-time Grand Slam champion made 29 unforced errors and failed to capitalize on any of her four break point opportunities.
The 25-year-old struggled early in the match, losing the opening set before coming back to win the match in two sets. Then Shuai had a match point at 5-4. In spite of this, Shuai kept her cool and finished the match off with a serve at 6-5 to take the match and the set.
Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who was the underdog in last year’s U.S. Open final but beat Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 7-5, is up next for Zhang.
Following this shocking loss, Osaka will play the US Open without a seed despite having won the title twice.
The four-time Grand Slam winner hasn’t had a successful season due to her lack of tournament and match victories. Her injuries kept her out of Wimbledon, but she did not do well in the first two Grand Slams of the year, losing in the third round in Melbourne and the first round in Paris.
She was defeated by Amanda Anisimova in both Majors. The world No. 39 recently lost in the round of 16 at the Silicon Valley Classic to American Coco Gauff.
Osaka then withdrew midway through her first-round match at 2022 Canadian Open due to injury.
Not only was this her first loss in the first round of consecutive tournaments, but it was also her first loss in any round of a tournament since 2018.
After defeating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the final match of the 2018 US Open, Osaka became a household name. Furthermore, she made history by becoming the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.