Tennis: Naomi Osaka adjusting to clay in time for French Open

Julien Pretot, Reuters

Posted at May 25 2019 09:40 AM

Naomi Osaka, the world No. 1 from Japan, has won the past 2 majors — the US and Australian Opens — but she has yet to claim a title on the slowest surface. Matteo Ciambelli, Reuters

PARIS—Naomi Osaka believes she is finally getting to grips with clay-court tennis as she is about to start her first grand slam as the top seed at this year's French Open.

The world No. 1 from Japan has won the past 2 majors — the US and Australian Opens — but she has yet to claim a title on the slowest surface.

"Definitely for me I feel like I should be an all-court player. Honestly, it's been a bit of a ride trying to figure out how to play better on clay throughout these years, but I think this year I have been playing well," Osaka told reporters ahead of the May 26-June 9 tournament at Roland Garros.

"So I'm really excited to see what happens here."

Osaka reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome on the red dirt this season.

Looking to improve her clay-court skills, she spent a bit of time at 11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal's academy.

"I was able to go there for a little bit in between Germany and Spain. It was really nice," she said.

"Everyone is very nice and helpful. And then I met Rafa. So that was really cool."

Her clay-court results and her recent success at the majors have boosted her confidence.

"I don't want to be here thinking I want to get to the quarters," she said even though her best result at the French Open was reaching the third round in 2016 and last year.

"I have never been that far here before, but my end goal is to win, of course."

Osaka will start her campaign against Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova before a potentially explosive second round clash against two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka or 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko.

Serena Williams, the 23-time major champion, could be her quarter-final opponent while defending champion Simona Halep is a potential semi-final obstacle. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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