SHENZHEN • It was deja vu for Naomi Osaka after the world No. 3 was yesterday forced to withdraw from the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, her second straight injury-enforced pullout at the tournament.
Her exit came just two days after the 22-year-old Japanese won her opening match against Czech Petra Kvitova, the first time she had secured victory at the lucrative season-ending competition.
"It's not ideal," said Osaka, who lost to American Sloane Stephens and Germany's Angelique Kerber, before retiring against Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens on her first appearance in the event in Singapore a year ago.
"This is the second time I had to withdraw from the Finals. I mean, the last time I at least played, so a retirement instead of a withdrawal.
"It kind of sucks because I thought I was playing well. I definitely wanted to win here."
The former world No. 1 revealed she had suffered a recurrence of a shoulder problem which first surfaced during the China Open earlier this month.
"I did this in the final of Beijing," Osaka said of her win over Ashleigh Barty. "I didn't serve for a while when I was in Japan. I just started serving the last two days.
"Felt better, came here, then I played my match. I felt it immediately. When I woke up the day after, it was like throbbing and stuff.
"Didn't serve at all yesterday. Hit for like five minutes."
Despite ending her season on a sour note, she can look back on a year full of highs and lows.
She won the Australian Open in January and was the top-ranked player before putting a mid-season drop-off in form mid-season behind her with tournament wins at the Pan Pacific Open in Japan and the China Open.
While she dispensed with two coaches in Sascha Bajin and Jermaine Jenkins, before settling with her dad Leonard Francois, she believes the tough times have been "a lesson that I learnt".
"Surprisingly, this year is better than last year, even though I cried way more this year than I did last year," she added. "It's just like you have the opportunity to change the things that are happening to you, even though it might not seem like it at the moment.
"I definitely think that this year was somehow better."
Her place in the Red Group has been taken by Bertens, who yesterday beat Barty 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to hand the Australian world No. 1 her first defeat in China.
In the later match, Czech Petra Kvitova lost again, to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.