Face of Tokyo Olympics, Home Favourite Naomi Osaka Knocked Out of Olympics Tennis Event
© REUTERS / MIKE SEGARTokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 3 - Ariake Tennis Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 27, 2021. Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts during her third round match against Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic
© REUTERS / MIKE SEGAR
The reigning Australian and US Open champion became the latest big name to exit the Tokyo Olympics. Several big names, including World No. 1 Ash Barty, former two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek and third seed Aryna Sabalenka have all crashed out of the competition in Japan.
Home favourite and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka's dream of winning an Olympic gold medal ended on Tuesday, with the Japanese superstar suffering a shocking 6-1, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova in the third round at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo.
Osaka, 23, possibly the most recognised sports star in Japan, was given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame during the Games' opening ceremony.
Well before the Olympics began, Osaka was named as the face of the Games, with hundreds of billboards featuring the current No. 2 overlooking Tokyo's skyline.
After the exit of a number of Grand Slam winners, particularly after top seeded Barty's defeat, Osaka was billed as the overwhelming favourite to claim her very first gold medal at home. But, perhaps, it was not meant to be.
Osaka, who made headlines in May during the French Open because of her boycott of the media, citing mental health issues, never looked in any kind of rhythm against her Czech opponent.
Vondrousova, a former French Open finalist, is not known for her hard court pedigree.
It is a surface Osaka has dominated in recent years, but an error-strewn display from the Japanese made her rival's life extremely easy on the court.
With Osaka battling to hold her serve, Vondrousova wasted little time in securing the first set 6-1.
At the start of the second set, things looked a lot better for the home favourite as she succeeded in not only holding serve, but also broke Vondrousova to grab an early 2-0 lead.
But the shift in momentum didn't last too long, as Vondrousova clawed her way back, breaking Osaka twice to send her packing out of the tournament before booking her place in the quarterfinals.
That's the first time Osaka loses before the QFs of an hardcourt event since the 2020 Australian Open.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) July 27, 2021
Perhaps Osaka's 18 unforced errors cost her dearly as she was never in control of her serve.
On the other hand, Vondrousova made just six unforced errors in the match and unlike the Japanese star, had no trouble whatsoever during her service games, winning 14 of 16 points behind her first serve.
Osaka's loss is a huge setback to the Tokyo 2020 organisers, considering her stardom and massive following across the country.
She is Japan's only Grand Slam winner in tennis, a feat she accomplished by winning the US Open in 2018. Osaka is also the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 ranking in women's singles.