Tokyo Olympics: Osaka's time away makes Games glory difficult, says Cash

By Sports Desk July 19, 2021

Naomi Osaka is less likely to claim Olympics glory on home soil in Tokyo because her lack of match practice will be a disadvantage, according to Pat Cash.

Japan's Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after one match at the end of May, having revealed she would skip press conferences as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

Prior to taking a break from the sport, four-time grand slam champion Osaka revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

The 23-year-old said this month she wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and but also discussed her excitement at playing in a "dream" Olympics.

Former Wimbledon champion Cash insists Osaka has the game to triumph but feels it is a tougher task now given her main opponents are coming off two grand slams in quick succession.

"Yeah, she said [she was taking] time out – it's hard to know if she's going to be match hardened," Cash said to Stats Perform.

"I think that's the thing about playing Wimbledon, the grass court season. Are you match toughened? 

"That goes a huge, huge way [to achieving success, and not having that] is putting yourself under pressure and especially under those circumstances if it's for a gold medal."

 

Cash feels the quality and depth of opposition in the women's draw is another obstacle in Osaka's bid for gold.

Wimbledon winner Ash Barty, beaten finalist Karolina Pliskova, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are scheduled to be among the highest-ranked competitors for Osaka at the Olympics.

Cash added: "There are a lot of good players too. Going back onto the hard court, I think that favours certain players who hit the ball hard like Sabalenka for instance.

"But there's 30 girls who really do think they can win a gold medal there and I think that's true. 

"So it's very hard to predict who will win, obviously Japan want Osaka to win, but with her being out, I think it's less likely than in a normal circumstance where she's playing matches. 

"But she's such a talent that she really could come out there and blast players away, so I wouldn't put it past her."

Related items

  • Andy Murray returns to winning ways against Alexandre Muller at Qatar Open Andy Murray returns to winning ways against Alexandre Muller at Qatar Open

    Andy Murray snapped a six-match losing streak as he beat Alexandre Muller 6-1 7-6 (5) in the first round of the Qatar Open.

    The 36-year-old held his nerve in a tight second set tie-break to secure his first win since October 2023 and renew hopes of a late career swansong.

    Victory over the world number 75 seemed imperative if Murray was to continue to quell retirement talk and progress in a tournament in which he reached the final last year.

    He eased into a 3-0 lead against the French qualifier and spurned two break points for a 4-0 advantage before a brief interruption as he sought treatment for an apparent knee injury.

    Murray showed few ill effects as he completed a one-sided first set but Muller became more aggressive at the start of the second and sought to capitalise on his opponent’s restricted movement.

    The Scot fought off a series of break points before grabbing a break of his own with his first opportunity in the seventh game, only to surrender his lead immediately and allow Muller to haul back level.

    Muller held the advantage for much of the tie-break and looked set to level the match when he led 5-3, but Murray dug deep to reel off four points in a row and seal victory and set up a second-round clash with 18-year-old Jakub Mensik.

    Murray said on court: “The last few months have been tough on court for me. I’ve clearly not won many matches and lost a lot of close ones as well.

    “I’m proud I managed to get through the match and get another win, happy for my team who have been working hard trying to find solutions. Hopefully this is the start of a better run.”

  • Cameron Norrie cruises into second round of Rio Open Cameron Norrie cruises into second round of Rio Open

    Cameron Norrie hit the ground running at the Rio Open on Monday, defeating Bolivian player Hugo Dellien 6-3 6-2 in Brazil.

    The world number 23 saved the only break point he faced as he breezed into the second round in one hour and 21 minutes.

    In his on-court interview after the match, Norrie said he was happy with how he bounced back after a first-round exit in Argentina last week.

    He said: “I served much better than last week, and I was a bit more patient and knew I had to play point for point and really make the rallies a bit longer.

    “I think I learned from last week with that, and just happy to be back in Brazil.”

    He will face off with Chilean player Tomas Barrios Vera next, after the world number 120 knocked out Brazilian wild card Gustavo Heide 7-5 6-3.

    Norrie won the top prize at last year’s Rio Open, defeating world number two Carlos Alcaraz in the final.

  • Andy Murray vows to keep playing tennis as he looks for an end to his losing run Andy Murray vows to keep playing tennis as he looks for an end to his losing run

    Andy Murray has vowed to keep playing tennis as he looks for an end to his losing run.

    The former world number one has lost his last six matches stretching back to October and slipped to 50th in the ATP rankings.

    The 36-year-old has faced questions about his future but, ahead of playing in next week’s Qatar Open, he has shared his determination to keep going.

    “I can do whatever I want,” Murray told Sky Sports Tennis.

    “I don’t have to do what fans or journalists or anyone is telling me to do.

    “I’m qualifying for all of these tournaments on my right, on my ranking from the matches I’ve won. I want to keep playing just now. I’m not going to stop.”

    Murray will face a qualifier in the first round of the Qatar Open, a competition he won in 2008 and 2009 and finished runner-up in 2017 and 2023.

    The three-time grand slam singles champion admits he has found his start to the year hard, but is hoping he can return to form.

    He added: “Tennis-wise it hasn’t been a great start to the year. I’ve never experienced a period like this as a professional. It’s been difficult, a new experience for me (which) is not the nicest, but good to experience new things and try and learn from them.

    “I was never a great practice player, I didn’t used to win practice matches, exhibition matches. It’s been the complete opposite for me recently.

    “I know there’s better tennis in me than I’m showing just now, but I’m hoping I can turn it around.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.