Naomi Osaka admitted that she copied Novak Djokovic during her opening match at the Qatar Open. The former world No. 1 got revenge over Caroline Garcia after losing to her at the Australian Open, downing the No. 15 seed 7-5 6-4. And she looked to a fellow multi-Grand Slam champion when she planned her tactics for the grudge match.
Osaka earned the second victory of her comeback on Monday as she took out Garcia in Doha. The 26-year-old came into the WTA 1000 tournament on a three-match losing streak, which included a defeat to the Frenchwoman in the first round of the Australian Open. She also suffered disappointment in Abu Dhabi last week, losing 7-5 6-0 to Danielle Collins and admitting that she felt “like a failure” afterwards.
But the four-time Grand Slam champion managed to turn things around in her grudge match with world No. 21 Garcia. Osaka converted all three break points she had in the match, saving seven on her own serve. She also won 36 per cent of the return points and later confessed that she had been channelling Djokovic.
“I did change my return – I don’t want to say ‘style’, but I guess form,” the Japanese star said after her straight-set victory. “I don’t know how to describe it. Like, before I was taking one step, one step, and then jumping in, but now I’m kind of just jumping in with both feet, because apparently Djokovic does that, so why not copy the best returner in the world.”
Osaka has always been one of the strongest serves on tour and fired down six aces against Garcia, barely dropping a point on her first serve. But she decided to focus on her return game after speaking with her coach.
She continued: “I had a conversation with Wim (Fissette) and it was a little frustrating knowing that my service is one of the best in the world, but I wanted to work on the things that I know should be much better and the rest was one of them.”