Naomi Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament on Tuesday.
It wasn’t the ending that neither Osaka nor her fans across Japan and worldwide expected for the Tokyo Olympics.
“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said Osaka, who called lighting the Olympic cauldron during last week’s opening ceremony in Tokyo “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”
As the highest-paid female athlete in the world and the host country’s face of the Games, the huge expectations were hard to handle.
“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”
Osaka struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes, while the left-handed Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew her opponent out of her comfort zone.
“It’s tough for her also playing in Japan and in the Olympics,” the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova said. “It’s so much pressure, I cannot imagine.”
Osaka won her opening two matches in straight sets following a two-month mental health break. But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.
Vondrousova’s quarterfinal opponent will be either Paula Badosa of Spain or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.
In men’s action, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece beat Frances Tiafoe of the United States 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last 16.
And Novak Djokovic added another medal event to his program by entering the mixed doubles draw with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic.