Naomi Osaka was asked after her first-round Wimbledon loss about splitting from her coach in the winter, about inconsistency, about restoring confidence. Finally, about getting used to her new level of global fame.
“Can I leave?” the No. 2 seed said after that 11th question of her press conference following a 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss to 39th-ranked Yulia Putintseva. “I feel like I’m about to cry.”
Osaka became the highest-ranked women’s singles seed to lose in the first round of Wimbledon since Martina Hingis in 2001 on Monday. Putintseva swept her for the second time in the last two weeks.
Osaka, who broke through with back-to-back hardcourt Slams at the U.S. Open in September and the Australian Open in January, has lost in the first week of back-to-back Slams on clay and grass.
She committed 38 unforced errors as the 5-foot-4 Putintseva had twice as many winners as unforced errors, 15 to seven, in her first time on tennis’ most famous court.
A reporter asked if the parity atop women’s tennis — Osaka is the lone multiple winner of the last 10 Grand Slams — softened the blow of the defeat.
“That makes me feel worse,” she said. Osaka refused to relate it to splitting from coach Sascha Bajin after the Australian Open or her youth (21 years).
“There is answers to questions that you guys ask that I still haven’t figured out yet,” she said.
Osaka said before the tournament that her transition from the spring clay season to grass had been tough.
In her tune-up event in Birmingham, Great Britain, she needed three sets to get out of the first round and then was dumped by Putintseva. At one point in the event, she sat next to her chair rather than on it during a break.
“I had so much stuff on my mind, then I was trying to change something, whether it be, like, sitting on the floor, whatever, try to change something,” said Osaka, who has not made a WTA final since the Australian Open and her February split from Bajin, with whom she won those two Slams. Osaka later attributed the move to putting happiness before success. “You know the song, ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems?’ … There might not necessarily be more problems, but I’m definitely overthinking more.”
Osaka’s ouster opens the draw for No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and No. 7 Simona Halep in the bottom half. No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 16 Markéta Vondroušová also lost Monday.
In the men’s draw, No. 6 Alexander Zverev and No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas were sent packing, boosting the already heavy likelihood that one of the Big Three will claim the title in two weeks.
Zverev, who fell in four sets to Czech Jiri Vesely, has been ranked as high as No. 3 but hasn’t made a Grand Slam semifinal.
Tsitsipas, dropped by Italian Thomas Fabbiano in five, has beaten Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (on clay) in the last year.
Top-ranked Djokovic began his title defense easing past German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 .
Serena Williams, Federer and Nadal play first-round matches Tuesday.
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