TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s top tennis gold prospect Naomi Osaka was defeated in the third round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic tournament on Tuesday, saying she failed to cope with the pressure of the opportunity .
The world number two was swept 6-1 6-4 by Czech Marketa Vondrousova in a shock result that took a toll on Japan’s gold rush hopes.
Tokyo 2020 marked Osaka’s first tournament since her retirement from Roland Garros in May, when she said she had suffered from depression for nearly three years.
Osaka said at the time that she would boycott press conferences to raise awareness of players’ mental well-being, but spoke to reporters after the loss.
“I really felt like there was a lot of pressure this time around,” she said. “I think maybe it’s because I’ve never been to an Olympics before and the first one to be here was a bit too much.
“But I think I’m happy with the way I played… that I took that break that I had. I’ve already taken long breaks and managed to do well.
“And I’m not saying I did it right away, but I know my expectations were way higher than my result. So… I think my attitude wasn’t that great, but I didn’t. Didn’t really know how to deal with this pressure … so this is the best I could have done in this situation.
“For me, I’m really happy to be here. I’m sad to have lost, of course, but overall very happy with my first Olympic experience.”
The tennis event has now lost its two best women’s draw cards after world number one and Wimbledon champion Ash Barty were beaten in the first round on Sunday.
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday to open the Games, looked uncomfortable on the Tokyo blues courts and never picked up the pace as Vondrousova pushed forward.
The Japanese player pulverized 18 costly unforced errors throughout the game – three times the number of Vondrousova.
In the quarter-finals, the Czech will face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska, who will play later on Tuesday.
(Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman)