June 14, 2024
Naomi Osaka

The former No. 1 accepted a wild card into the Open Capfinances Rouen Métropole, but was ultimately outdone by a more experienced dirtballer in Italy’s Martina Trevisan.
Naomi Osaka’s clay-court comeback ended in the first round of the Open Capfinances Rouen Métropole on Wednesday, the former No. 1 exiting to Martina Trevisan, 6-4, 6-2.

“It was such an honor to play against Naomi,” Trevisan said on court. “She’s a great player, doing an amazing effort in and off the court. For sure, I came on court to try to win, and I think I played really consistently today.”

The former world No. 1 was playing her first match on clay since 2022, having sat out last season due to maternity leave. Back on what has been a less comfortable surface for the hard-court specialist, Osaka accepted a wild card into the WTA 250 tournament over the more stacked Porsche Tennis Grand Prix field. Though she showed flashes of her top form, Osaka was ultimately overawed by the Italian dirtballer in 92 minutes on Center Court.

Osaka’s struggles on clay have been well-documented, culminating with a 2021 decision first to eschew press conferences from that year’s Roland Garros and later to withdraw entirely in an effort to preserve her mental health. At that point, she had been one of the most dominant players on tour, winning back-to-back hard-court major titles at the 2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open, compiling a 23-match win streak through March of that year.

Where Osaka has won all four of her major trophies on concrete, Trevisan has excelled on clay, reaching the quarterfinals of Roland Garros as a qualifier in 2020 and going one round further two years later, reaching the semis. Down from a career-high ranking of No. 18, the world No. 78 began her clay-court campaign at a W100 ITF Pro Circuit event in Zaragoza, where she reached the quarterfinals.

Osaka spent last week playing for her home country in Billie Jean King Cup, where she led Japan to a 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan. But making the turnaround from indoor hard courts to indoor clay proved trickier than the 26-year-old likely hoped as she began her first round against Trevisan with an early exchange of breaks.

Still, Osaka, currently ranked No. 192 six tournaments into her 2024 comeback, looked to get the upper hand on the unseeded Trevisan, engineering five break points in two service games. Trevisan saved all five and turned the tables on Osaka, serving out the first set and breaking early in the second.

Naomi Osaka looked to keep things within one break but Trevisan grew in confidence by the seventh game, belting a backhand return winner to earn another break chance, converting a double-break advantage as Osaka steered a backhand wide.

Trevisan surged to a pair of match points as Osaka struggled to find he range on the return, and edged over the finish line after one last forehand winner.

Naomi Osaka falls to 28-23 in tour-level clay matches, with her lone tour-level clay-court semifinal coming in Stuttgart back in 2019.

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