‘I stole one of Rafael Nadal’s moves and its going well,’ says Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka admits that she’s been taking tips from watching 13-time French Open Champion Rafael Nadal to help her solve the puzzle of clay court success.

Osaka, who has won all four of her Grand Slam titles on hard courts, has always struggled on clay, and has never reached a final on the red dirt.

She famously withdraw from the 2021 French Open after winning her first match due to what she considered media pressure after refusing to take part in tournament press conferences and media obligations.

The former world number one says she has been preparing for this years clay-court season by watching other successful clay players, particularly Rafael Nadal.

“I think I stole one of the things that he did and I’ve been practising it recently,” Osaka said, referring to Nadal.

“It’ll either go really good or really bad. There’s like no in between.

“But I think as I’ve been doing it, it’s been going pretty well,” she added.

Osaka has been training in Mallorca ahead of the Madrid Open where she will face 78th ranked Anastasia Potapova in the first round.

“Honestly I’ve been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I’m the type of person that learns really fast.

“if I see it up close and honestly it’s a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them.”

Osaka has not won a tournament since the Australian Open at the start of 2021, but has had a disrupted year due to taking time away from the sport after admitting on social media that she suffers bouts of depression.

After making a tearful second-round exit at Indian Wells last month, where she was affected by a heckler in the crowd, Osaka rebounded in style in Miami, reaching the final before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek.

The Japanese star spoke afterwards about the incident and said she is looking at it as a positive learning experience.

“I feel like there are a lot of moments in my career that are like extremely sad for me at the time but I kind of later look back on it and I think to myself, ‘Well that really made me grow as a person, and even though I really hated the experience, I’m glad it happened to me’,” Osaka said.

“For me that’s one of those moments. I wish it didn’t happen, but also I’m glad that it did.

“I feel like it prepared me for a lot of things that may or may not happen but it’s kind of like one of those things you have in your back pocket as experience.”

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