Naomi Osaka’s return to major competition has been a bumpy road. That continued in the first round of Grand Slam clay court tournament, the French Open. The four-time Grand Slam champion was beaten by American Amanda Anisimova 7-5, 6-4, per ESPN.
Osaka played well but her serve was broken in a crucial second set game. The two-time US Open winner double faulted on a break point, giving Anisimova the point and the game. This allowed her to go up 4-3, and the American never relinquished the lead.
While some may characterize this as an upset, it’s not. Anisimova has looked strong throughout clay court season, playing at warm up tournaments in Rome and Madrid. Currently ranked No. 28 in the world, Anisimova’s road to the French includes wins over top ranked players like former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Olympic Gold medalist Belinda Bencic.
This is Naomi’s first time back at Roland Garros since withdrawing in 2021. Citing anxiety and mental health concerns, she refused to do post-match press conferences. French Open organizers threatened to fine and even suspend her from the tournament, prompting Osaka to withdraw. Following the incident, Naomi has taken periodic breaks from competitive tennis, mainly playing in Grand Slams and a few major warm ups. In recent months she’s been open about her mental health, revealing that she’s now seeing a therapist.
In a press conference before the French Open started, Naomi knew she had to address last year’s controversy, noting that she wasn’t happy with how she handled things.
“I’m not going to lie. When I first came here, I was very worried,” Osaka said at the conference. I was just kind of worried if there would be people that—of course, I also didn’t like how I handled the situation—but I was worried that there were people that I offended in some way, and I would just kind of bump into them. But I think everyone has been really positive, for the most part. I’m not really so sure. I was also very worried about this press conference, because I knew I’d get a lot of questions about this.”
The two-time Australian Open champion now turns her attention to preparing for Wimbledon, as there is no break between clay and grass court season.