Global Tennis champion Naomi Osaka made a surprisingly early exit at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, losing to Markéta Vondroušová in the third round.
“This is a very big story,” Mary Carillo said during the Olympic Channel’s live broadcast of the match. Osaka lost to Vondroušová in straight sets, 6:1 6:4. “The woman who lit the cauldron on Friday night here in Tokyo is out of the tournament.”
Osaka was chosen for the last leg of the torch relay during the opening ceremony on Friday. Representing Japan, she was pegged as one of the country’s best bets to bring home the gold.
Sadly, her gold medal dreams were cut short when the second-ranked Japanese tennis titan lost to the former French Open finalist. Following the match, she confessed that she was starting to feel some of the pressure as one of the Games’ most well-known faces.
The match also marked the four-time Grand Slam winner’s first tournament since withdrawing from the French Open to focus on her mental health. The Olympics match was played on Osaka’s favorite surface, hard court. She has won all of her major titles on hard court in the U.S. and Australia.
“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” she told reporters following the loss. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before, and for the first year (it) was a bit much.”
Osaka met with a small group of Olympics reporters after initially deciding not to comment after the loss. In May, Osaka dropped out of the French Open and didn’t play in the Wimbledon to prepare for the Games.
Dreams of Gold at Olympics Cut Short for Naomi Osaka
“I’ve taken long breaks before, and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” she said following her loss.
She added: “I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”
Her opponent, Vondroušová, won four straight games to start the matchup. Osaka would break the Czech Republic native’s serve in the second set’s opening game. Sadly, almost immediately she handed the break back when she double-faulted to make it 2-2.
Osaka had two break points to take a 4-3 lead in the second. However, the Czech tennis star hit consecutive drop shots to win, which put her back in the game.
Although she’s often referred to as the top female tennis player globally, Osaka is actually No. 2 behind Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who also left the Tokyo singles tournament early in an upset.
As for Vondroušová, she will face off against Spain’s Paula Badosa Gibert in the quarterfinals.