Naomi Osaka faces a tough test in her opener at Wimbledon, hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of her French Open run. She finally saw her winning streak at slams ended, having picked up the US Open and Australian Open back to back over the past year. She plays Yulia Putintseva for the second time this grass swing, having lost to her at Birmingham.
That loss did come as a disappointment to the World No.2 but Osaka has not had the luxury of playing grass at juniors that many rising stars these days, something that is contributing to her recent struggles. “You know grass, I’m not really that comfortable with it. And it’s always the first tournament that’s the hardest. So, yeah, I have only practiced twice on grass because it was raining a lot.” she said in Birmingham. “It’s similar to green clay which I kind of grew up playing, but grass, I have never played on grass”
Putintseva’s best surface is not really the grass, especially with her serve remaining vulnerable. However, she is beginning to get more confident and wins over the likes of Osaka can only boost that further. “This year I just started to feel a little bit better with my movement, I would say. Before, I wasn’t moving that great.” she said after that win.
Given the career trajectory of Osaka, it only has to be a matter of time before she figures it out because her game should convert well to grass. Once her movement is up to the standard of her serve and big groundstrokes, she should be a threat to the best on this surface too. Whether that is this year remains to be seen, but she should be around at the deep end of Wimbledons for years to come. “It’s been kind of tough, especially since it’s way more unpredictable than clay. But I feel like it should be good for me because it’s very heavily reliant on the first serves, sort of being the first person to be aggressive.” she said. “I’ve been kind of trying to learn every day. I think it’s been a very humbling experience.”
Prediction – Naomi Osaka in straight sets