Osaka optimistic for Paris, despite lack of focus in Madrid loss

MADRID • Naomi Osaka is not too worried for the French Open, despite admitting she was distracted by "too many things" in her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 Madrid Open quarter-final loss to Belinda Bencic on Thursday.

The world No. 1 Japanese star has claimed the last two Grand Slams at the US and Australian Opens and will be seeking a third straight in Paris later this month.

"There's a lot of happy things to take from this because I lost in the first round last year, so anything is an improvement," she said.

"For me, I just wanted to grow comfortable on clay and I think I have. So it is looking good for the French Open. And, honestly, all I want to do is have fun and I think I'm capturing that spirit again."

The 21-year-old added that knowing her top WTA ranking could possibly be in danger after failing to reach the Madrid semi-finals might have played on her mind throughout the match.

"I was just thinking about too many things. I wanted to win this match so much because she'd beaten me before. I didn't want to lose twice in a row," said Osaka, who was also defeated by Bencic at Indian Wells in March.

"People have been telling me if I get to the semis here, I can stay No. 1. I wanted to do that, but I was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn't a good thing.

"Today, it was a drama, so much drama in my head. I don't know what was going on. Normally, I'm able to move on and just concentrate on the next point."

She will now head to Rome next week for the final tune-up before the May 26 start of Roland Garros.

Bencic, a former top-10 player before injury struck several seasons ago, is back in the top 20 and determined to lift her standing further.

"Of course, I'm very happy," the world No. 18 said. "I beat the world No. 1 and I turned the match around."

In the men's draw, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic progressed to the last four after his quarter-final opponent Marin Cilic was forced to withdraw yesterday because of food poisoning.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2019, with the headline 'Osaka optimistic for Paris, despite lack of focus in Madrid loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe