Osaka is a fast learner
Naomi Osaka said before her opening round she may have picked up a trick or two from Rafael Nadal’s ‘claybook’ by studying some of his videos on clay, and she mentioned she planned on watching him practise this week in Madrid.
Initially, she wouldn’t reveal what parts of the Spaniard’s game she “stole” but after easing past Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 6-1 on Friday, it became rather obvious what Osaka was referring to, particularly on the last point of the contest.
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On match point, Osaka predicted Potapova would hit her second serve wide to her backhand so she took several steps to her left in anticipation to go around the backhand and hit an inside-out forehand, which helped her set up the point nicely and she finished it off at the net moments later.
The former world No.1 said she watched Nadal practise earlier in the day and explained why she particularly tested out that move in her match.
“I believe watching like Nadal, Iga [Swiatek] does it too – which I think is really cool – but just like knowing when to kind of hit a forehand instead of a backhand and knowing when to run around,” said Osaka, who next faces home favourite Sara Sorribes Tormo in round two.
“I think a lot of really good clay-court players do that, so I'm trying to learn how to do that, as well.”
- Studious Osaka picking up Nadal tips and praise for superhero Swiatek – Madrid Diary
- A hero’s welcome for Nadal, and a heart-to-heart with Halep – Madrid Open diary
Andreescu finds her purpose
Bianca Andreescu played her first tournament of the year last week in Stuttgart, returning from a six-month hiatus that included a much-needed break for mental health reasons.
Making her Madrid debut on Friday, the former US Open champion earned her first ever tour-level top-50 victory on clay by overcoming Alison Riske and later spoke to reporters about how she utilised her time away from the sport.
“I did other things outside of tennis. I picked up martial arts. I took dance lessons. I played a lot of basketball,” the 21-year-old Canadian said.
“I started making some music as well again because I started that during the quarantine back in 2020. But I kind of picked it up again. I hung out with a bunch of my friends, kind of got a lot of stuff out of my system, including spending time with family. I just kind of regrouped, basically.”
One of the most rewarding experiences during her break was the volunteer work she did at a women’s domestic violence centre.
“I feel that it's not something that is discussed often, first of all. It's starting to be more discussed now. There's a lot more awareness on that,” Andreescu said of what drew her to that cause.
“I know some people in my life that have gone through something like that, and it's one of the most traumatic things ever, and a bunch of other things I'm not going to go into detail about but I felt super connected with it. Who knows, maybe one day I will create my own thing.”
Andreescu, who also volunteered at a SickKids hospital, was deeply moved by some of the women she met at the shelter and returned to tennis with a newfound sense of purpose and a different perspective.
“I actually spoke to a couple of women and their stories of what they went through, and if I go into detail I'm going to cry because it's like the saddest thing ever,” she said.
“There is this one lady who was basically running away from her husband that wanted to kill her, like that kind of stuff. It's just absurd things. I can't believe any human being has to go through that.
“Just being in that environment really, first of all, makes me appreciate my life. For me, tennis is just a platform that I love – now I love it again – to basically help and contribute to a better world in a way.
“That's kind of how I'm viewing tennis. I'm not identifying myself with the sport anymore, because I felt like last year, if I lost, I hated myself. If I won, it was like the best thing ever.
“Now I'm viewing tennis as just another opportunity to get better as a person and it's something I'm passionate about, so I want to enjoy myself out there.”
Tennis stars turn up the style
You know how in the NBA, players arrive to games all dressed up in cool outfits and land on GQ’s Instagram the next day for their fashion choices?
Tennis is far removed from that as players usually come to the venue dressed in their tennis gear and ready to hit the practice courts or to warm up for their matches.
The last couple of days, however, a couple of players showed up in cool fits, and it made me think how cool it would be if tennis had that on a regular basis.
Rafael Nadal arrived at the Caja Magica the other day in jeans, a turtleneck and a blazer, having come straight from an event where he announced the launch of the Rafa Nadal Sports University project in collaboration with Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio.
Andy Murray helped with the Mutua Madrid Open tournament presentation in Plaza de Cibeles and came to the tennis dressed in a pink polo shirt and skinny jeans.
It was a refreshing change and certainly one tennis should embrace from time to time. Someone alert the GQ folks!
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