Naomi Osaka has admitted to struggling with her status as a hunted player, after a brief tantrum during her round two Australian Open win.
Osaka blew up after going down a break in the third game of the second set against Saisai Zheng, as she struggled to handle windy conditions on Margaret Court Arena during Wednesday’s morning session.
The defending champion whacked her racquet on the ground, threw it and kicked it away before sitting in her chair with a towel over her head.
“You don’t see that too often from Naomi. She is disgusted with her play at the moment,” Nine commentator Robbie Koenig said.
The Japanese superstar needn’t have worried too much: she recovered for a simple 6-2 6-4 win in one hour and 20 minutes, keeping her Grand Slam title defence intact.
Osaka had a rocky 2019 season after winning at Melbourne Park. It was her second consecutive Slam title, having won the 2018 US Open, and put a huge target on her back.
She lost in the first round of a tournament in Dubai after winning the Australian Open, had multiple coach changes during the year, lost her world No.1 ranking and broke down in tears at a Wimbledon press conference after another first-up defeat.
Yet she never dropped lower than world No.4 and won two WTA titles late in the season. Her US Open title defence fizzled out in round four, but it let her know what to expect when defending a major.
“I think I actually got that all out during the US Open. Coming here, I just think about it as a new tournament and the only thing that’s changed is people maybe want to beat me more,” Osaka, the third seed, said after beating Zheng.
“I did not deal with that well after this tournament [last year], I tell you.
“I just think of it as a nice challenge, for someone to want to play their best against me is something that I have to really feel fortunate [for], because that’s how I get better.”
Osaka could next play American teen sensation Coco Gauff, who faces Romania’s Sorana Cirstea later on Wednesday.
The Japanese third seed admitted to becoming frustrated as she fired a number of balls over the baseline during her match.
“I got really fired when she (Zheng) was up 4-2 and people started clapping more … for the drama,” Osaka.
“I was complaining over here and almost throwing my racquet over there, but it worked out.
“I know I’ve been in this position on this court before, but I really didn’t want to play a third set this time.”