Osaka's got 'nothing to lose' in Slam rematch

Former No.1 had a premonition she would meet a seed, just not Anisimova

Naomi Osaka, Media Day, Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Naomi Osaka thought her coach Wim Fissette was being facetious when he revealed she would duel with her Australian Open conqueror first up on her return to Paris.

The resurgent yet still unseeded former world No.1 knew she was at the mercy of the draw gods and they weren’t in a terribly generous mood when they pitted her against the No.27 seed Amanda Anisimova, a Roland-Garros semi-finalist in 2019.

Anisimova eked out an upset of the defending champion at Melbourne Park in the third round this year, saving two match points in one of the showdowns of the tournament.

Still, the draw could have been worse this time round.

Osaka had a premonition she would face the top seed, a 20-year-old on a 28-match winning streak.


“I thought it was a joke, because honestly I had a dream a couple days ago that the draw came out, and I had to play Iga [Swiatek],” Osaka said. “Like for me, I was scared because I was thinking, like what's the worst possible player to play when I'm unseeded?

“She came in my mind, so thank God that didn't happen.”

Coping with injury

After tumbling as low as world No.85 in February, the Japanese 24-year-old rebounded in Miami to reach the final where she succumbed to the razor-sharp Swiatek.

It was enough to haul her back into the top 40 before an Achilles injury picked up in Madrid limited her to just two matches on clay.

“For me, there is no way I'm not going to play this tournament,” she said. “So of course you kind of have to manage things, but at the same time, I'm going to pop a few painkillers, it is what it is.

“I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something. Australia, when I played Kvitova [in the 2019 final], like for five matches I had this really bad back thing.

“So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don't have anything to lose.”

Naomi Osaka, practice, Wim Fissette, Roland-Garros 2022Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Branching out

Earlier this month, Osaka announced big changes off court with the launch of her own athlete management company, EVOLVE, alongside her agent, Stuart Duguid.

It was a step into relatively uncharted territory for a leading female athlete.

“I think role models are really important, just to see somebody do something and it makes you feel like you can do the same thing too,” she said.

“I found it really interesting that there wasn't a female athlete that's done this before but there has been so many men… I think it's a journey and I feel like I'm going to learn a lot on the journey.”

It followed on the heels of Osaka’s earlier entrepreneurial ventures, Play Academy in 2020, to empower young women via sport, and a skincare range launched last year.

It presented quite the juggling act for the Osaka juggernaut but the priority remained her bread and butter.

“I feel like there is a limited amount of years that I could play tennis,” she said. “So I have to make the best out of it.”