New York: Using fist pumps and screams to focus her wandering thoughts and shake off stress, Japanese teen Naomi Osaka powered into the US Open third round on Thursday, matching her best Grand Slam showing.
The 19-year-old Asian star, who ousted defending champion Angelique Kerber in her opener, outlasted 90th-ranked Czech Denisa Allertova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to reach the last 32 on the New York hardcourts.
"(It was) just willpower, because I don't really think I was playing that good," Osaka said.
"I felt a little bit stressed because it was my first match after playing Kerber. So I felt a little bit of expectations to win and that's why I wasn't playing so well.
"When I was walking down the hall to go to the court for the match I was like, 'Oh my God,' The hallway is super long so I started thinking way too much. But at least I won in the end."
Showing her emotions after key points and great shots kept 45th-ranked Osaka's mind sharp over the one hour, 52 minute affair.
"Saying 'Come on,' is a way for me to stay concentrated because sometimes my mind wanders during the match," she said. "And if I'm really pumped up, then I tend to focus really well."
Osaka, who has a Haitian father and Japanese mother, hit 35 winners and made the last of 10 aces on match point after it withstood an appeal.
"I was thinking, 'Please Jesus, if you're real...'" Osaka said. "I'm glad it turned out to be in."
Osaka, the 2016 WTA Newcomer of the Year, can reach her first fourth round at a Grand Slam by beating 418th-ranked Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi on Saturday.
And she already has the respect of potential last-16 foe Jelena Ostapenko, the reigning French Open champion.
"She plays really well," the Latvian 12th seed said. "She hits the ball hard, has a big serve."
But Osaka admits her mind wanders even in workouts.
"Once I was practicing and my whole practice — there's that commercial that says, 'If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma...' — that's all I could think about for the whole practice," Osaka said. "I was, like, 'Why do I keep thinking this?' "
"Then, during the breaks, all I could see was like that commercial where this woman was running in a field. I mean, it was a good practice. It's just my mind wasn't there. It was just muscle memory and stuff. That was a weird day."
Teen success inspires Osaka
She also recalled a well-meaning supporter yelled instructions to her in a past match.
"He was like, 'Hit your forehand. Hit high on her forehand. She hits flat balls. You can do it,'" Osaka said. "I kind of wanted to ask him what his ranking was."
"He was nice about it. At least he wasn't mean. And I actually did do it twice and it did work. But I was kind of annoyed, because it's a solo game, you know."
Other youth into the third round include US 18-year-old wildcard Sofia Kenin, Russian 19-year-old men's contender Andrey Rublev and 18-year-old Canadian qualifier Denis Shapovalov.
Osaka takes inspiration from the success of other teen titans.
"It's motivating," Osaka said. "Whenever I see them winning and stuff, it makes me really motivated to do the same. And I think in a sense maybe we are pushing each other to do better, because I know subconsciously I keep track of all their matches and stuff."
Published Date: Sep 01, 2017 11:29 am | Updated Date: Sep 01, 2017 11:31 am