PARIS -- Former No.1 Naomi Osaka and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu acknowledged there were doubts about whether their bodies would be ready to compete at Roland Garros. But both champions have set aside their injury concerns and are ready to compete.
For Osaka, it was an Achilles injury she picked up in her first-round match in Madrid that contributed to her second-round loss against Sara Sorribes Tormo and subsequent withdrawal from Rome. In Rome, Raducanu was forced to retire early in the second set against Bianca Andreescu in the first round.
"For me, there is no way I'm not going to play this tournament," Osaka said. "So of course you kind of have to manage things, but at the same time, I'm going to pop a few painkillers. It is what it is.
"I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something. In Australia, when I played Kvitova, for five matches I had this really bad back thing. So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don't have anything to lose."
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Osaka's perspective echoes back to her loss in Madrid. When asked why she chose to play through the match instead of retiring, Osaka cited Michael Jordan's famous "Flu Game." Battling through exhaustion and dehydration, Jordan scored 38 points to will the Chicago Bulls to a win in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Championship.
"I feel like there is like a limited amount of years that I could play tennis, so I have to make the best out of it," Osaka said. "I know that there are a lot of other players that are possibly like injured, like really badly, and they want to play this tournament so much.
"I think for me, a little nagging issue shouldn't be like a big deal. It's a Grand Slam. I watched this tournament on TV when I was younger. It's still a really big honor for me."
Thoughts on that opening round blockbuster? 🤔#RolandGarros |@naomiosaka pic.twitter.com/DASAaqbPl3— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 20, 2022
While Osaka is embracing the opportunity, Raducanu has targeted the French Open as another step in her learning process. Playing her first full season on the Hologic WTA Tour, the 19-year-old has been open about the struggles she's endured as she works to catch up on the physical side of the game.
"It was definitely thrown into question," Raducanu said. "But at the end of the day, I'm just learning, feeling it out. I got the all-clear to continue with preparations and see how things go."
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It is not yet June, but Raducanu has already had to play through hand blisters, foot blisters, and a lingering back injury, all after her training was derailed by Covid right before the start of the season. Despite it all, clay has proven to be solid ground for Raducanu, who had never played a tour-level clay match before Stuttgart, where she made her first clay quarterfinal.
"I'm learning about my body, for sure, but I'm very happy to be continuing my preparations for the French Open and to be able to play this tournament and fortunately I didn't have to miss this Grand Slam," Raducanu said. "That is definitely a really positive thing because I really look forward to these big moments and the big tournaments."
After decreasing her load after Rome, Raducanu says she's been able to prepare as she normally would the last few days. She is set to make her French Open main-draw debut on Monday against a qualifier.
She believes in a few years when her physicality is where it needs to be to gain consistency from the baseline, that clay will be a winning surface.
"I think that I have definitely come a long way and probably progressed faster than expected of myself in the last few weeks and I really am enjoying the clay," Raducanu said. "To be honest, I think I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would.
"Clay at the beginning was kind of written off, 'Oh, it's a clay court, just have a go.' But now I really believe that I can be good and faster than I thought it would be. I'm definitely looking forward for the coming clay court seasons."