Naomi Osaka, the world’s No. 2 ranked women’s tennis player, is out at Wimbledon after just the first round. Osaka lost 7-6 (4), 6-2 to No. 39 ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan on Monday, a huge disappointment in her quest to regain the No. 1 ranking that she recently lost.
The woman who beat Osaka is one of the reasons she lost that No. 1 ranking just a week ago. Just 12 days ago Putintseva beat Osaka at the 2019 Birmingham Classic, and that loss allowed Ashleigh Barty to take the No. 1 world ranking and push Osaka down to No. 2. Osaka and Putintseva have now met three times, and Putintseva has beaten Osaka each time.
Drawing Putintseva in the first round was bad luck for Osaka, considering their recent history. But there’s more to it than that. Osaka has said she’s exceedingly uncomfortable playing on grass, which is Wimbledon’s surface. Here’s what she told reporters ahead of Wimbledon, via the World Tennis Association.
"If you ask me right now, I would say for me grass is the hardest surface to learn because I've played on clay, despite the fact that it was green clay when I was little. But I never played on grass until I was 16 or 17... I just feel like my brain has to work way harder every day than the clay season. It's been kind of tough, especially since it's way more unpredictable than clay ... I've been kind of trying to learn every day. I think it's been a very humbling experience."
Osaka, 21, burst onto the scene after beating Serena Williams to win the 2018 U.S. Open, and followed that by winning the 2019 Australian Open in January. Putintseva, 24, has never made it past the second round at Wimbledon, but coming into Monday’s match had seven victories against players ranked in the world top 10.
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