NEW YORK – While Naomi Osaka has become a global advocate for the mental health of athletes, she has been largely known for her composure and poise on the court. That wasn’t the case on Friday night, when she lost to 18-year-old Leila Fernandez, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.
In the first group, Osaka seemed balanced, confident and aggressive. But things soon began to fall apart for her at the end of the second set, when 73rd seed Fernandes jumped from 0-40 to 40-40, hitting a backhand to send her into the tiebreak. Osaka made a series of unforced errors in the tiebreak, and quickly dug herself into a big hole.
A forehand hit hard to land 0-3, bent down and let out a agonizing shriek. After going down from 0 to 4, she threw her racket in frustration, but received no warning or violation of the law. Down 0-5, after another involuntary foul, she slammed her racket again, and once again, she received no warning or violation of the law.
She lost the tiebreak, 2-7, after making five non-compulsory fouls, letting out one last cry before leaving the field, with a towel covering her head. I stayed in a small bathroom by the court for a few minutes before returning.
Osaka left the stadium immediately after the match.
She broke through the national tennis scene at Flushing Meadows when she beat Serena Williams in 2018 for the title. She added another championship crown in 2020, and also won the 2020 and 2021 Australian Championships.
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Later, Osaka revealed that she has been battling depression since the 2018 US Open.
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