Maturity is my top goal: Osaka

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka not playing at her best in her Indian Wells title defence when the Japanese lost to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round on Tuesday. The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, however, said she ha
World No. 1 Naomi Osaka not playing at her best in her Indian Wells title defence when the Japanese lost to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth round on Tuesday. The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, however, said she had no regrets over her defeat.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

World No. 1 unfazed by loss, says it is crucial that she is learning to take defeat in her stride

LOS ANGELES • Naomi Osaka played down her straight-sets loss to Belinda Bencic at Indian Wells on Tuesday, saying she was learning to stay positive as she wrestles with the challenges of being the world's top player.

Osaka, who is the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, saw her first career title defence go down in flames to a razor-sharp Bencic, who won their fourth-round match 6-3, 6-1.

"I didn't play that well. But, honestly, I think at a time like this with that scoreline, I would usually feel very depressed and sad," said Osaka.

"But I feel pretty good right now because I think, given the circumstances, I tried my best and I don't really have any regrets."

Osaka, 21, said she lacked maturity when she won the tournament as a relative unknown player last year to kick off her meteoric rise through the rankings.

"One of the biggest things is I wanted to be more mature," the Japanese said, when asked how she has changed in the past year.

"I feel like this is something I'm still working on, on and off the court. It's one of the biggest goals that I have had my entire life. Because I might have thrown a few tantrums last year and it's something I'm working on improving this year and I feel like it's going well."

Bencic was in control throughout her match, forcing Osaka into defensive mode while demonstrating the skills that distinguished her as someone to watch before her career was stalled by a succession of debilitating injuries.

"It changed my perspective," the Swiss, who will face fifth-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova today, said of being unable to compete.

"I'm so happy to be on the court again. I'm actually enjoying (that) I'm healthy. I know how frustrating it was when I wasn't able to play at all."

The women's field lost its top two seeds as Romania's Simona Halep, the 2015 Indian Wells winner, fell to Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, ensuring that Osaka will remain top of tennis' summit.

It was a tough day for the top seeds as men's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was stunned 6-4, 6-4 by 35-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round on Tuesday.

Djokovic led the German 1-0 before the game was suspended due to heavy rain on Monday. But the Serb was clearly not at his best as he suffered a straight-sets loss to exit a tournament he had won five times.

"To be honest, I don't enjoy losing, especially in a tournament like this, a tournament where I have had plenty of success in the past," said Djokovic.

"I thought I was in good form. You just have to deal with it, move on, turn the next page."

Kohlschreiber said: "It's a very special win today. I had a great strategy to play against him."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Maturity is my top goal: Osaka'. Print Edition | Subscribe