John McEnroe and Mats Wilander have both said that it is going to be a long road back to the top for Naomi Osaka after she lost to Amanda Anisimova at the Australian Open.
The four-time Grand Slam winner told reporters after the match that she is "not God" and can’t be expected to win every match.
Osaka has won in Melbourne twice but announced after her US Open defeat to Leylah Fernandez in September that she would be taking a break from the game. She has returned intent on enjoying the process of playing rather than obsessing on results.
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And she said after the loss that she had taken a completely different approach to the match and it was one she was really happy with.
Talking in the Eurosport Cube, John McEnroe and Mats Wilander praised her decision to speak up on mental health, and added that expectations of her need to be modified in the coming years.
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“I'm not sure if we're going to ever see the great Naomi Osaka, who's going to win Grand Slam tournaments, again,” said Wilander.
“But I think it's really important we realise that it's going to be tough for her
“I don’t think we should expect Osaka of old to be back and I think she needs to look forwards.”
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Osaka – a winner at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021 – told reporters after her match that she was undecided on her schedule moving forward but McEnroe added that her bravery in talking about complex issues may draw more attention to her.
“It is an extremely difficult position she has in some ways put herself in,” said McEnroe.
“Bringing the concept of mental health to the forefront of the conversation is a great idea, but it has brought attention to her. However, now we're going to be discussing in more detail how is she going to handle losing match points? How is she going to handle losing early? Is she going to play a lot of events before the French Open? Will she play Wimbledon?
“She is going to have a lot more light on her and she is going to have to be prepared to handle that.”
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It was put to Osaka by reporters that the hiatus had perhaps left her a little short of match practice and had impacted her performance, but Osaka was unsure of that.
“I mean, for me it didn't,” said the 24-year-old in her post-match press conference.
“Wim [Fissette, Osaka’s coach] said it probably did, because I didn't play a person that served and returned like really well. So he said if I played people that returned as well as she did before maybe I would have been more prepared, but those are the choices that I made."
When pressed on her schedule Osaka said she was “not so sure right now” and added she would listen to her body before deciding when to play next.
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