MIAMI, FL, USA - Getting to the top of the WTA rankings has done noting to demotivate two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka. If anything, the Japanese youngster has found herself almost distracted by the prospect of keeping up her breakneck pace up towards even greater heights in 2019.
"I want to win every match I play," she said after a narrow defeat to Chinese Taipei rival Hsieh Su-Wei at the Miami Open on Saturday. "I feel like I've dealt with the stress of people asking me if I have pressure because I have the No.1 next to my name. I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I'm not.
"I think more about winning now compared to the matches before where I didn't necessarily think that was the case."
Osaka noted a mental shift in both her match against Hsieh and her win over 2009 US Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer, thinking more about the result than the process of getting over the finish line. Up a set and 5-3 on Hsieh, Osaka loosened her grip, allowing her tricky rival to weave her way back into the match, avenge their Australian Open epic, end the top seed's 63-match winning streak of matches won after winning the first set.
"I feel like today I got ahead of myself. I feel like there were some times when I was returning her serve in the second set, I felt myself relax a bit because I thought that I could be able to serve it out anyways."
For a player who was ranked No.70 just over a year ago - and recently switched coaches from Sascha Bajin to former Venus Williams hitting partner Jermaine Jenkins - it's an understandable adjustment period, one for which the 21-year-old believes she has a solution.
"I think there's just moments like that that I have to, like, figure out how to just focus more, fight for every point, not think that I can just turn it on and off."
Still, she could pull some positives from the loss, itself a sign of progress from the sometimes self-depricating perfectionist.
"I've been working on my serve a lot these last two tournaments, and definitely it's improved from Indian Wells to here. I'm not sure, I don't think the percentage was that great today. I was slowly starting to count on it again like I used to. So that's a big plus for me.
"I've also been working a lot on my second serve. I think I need to continue practicing it because she was stepping in a lot and being very aggressive. That's not something I want people to do, for sure."
Disappointed after missing out on an opportunity to defend her breakthrough BNP Paribas Open title last week - falling to eventual semifinalist Belinda Bencic - Osaka vowed to regroup with her recently reshffled team.
"I think that I played pretty good today actually, if I get over the fact that I lost. I think I played a lot of good rallies. Of course, there were some shots that I tried to hit a winner on to early. I just do that sometimes. It's nothing to be negative about. I think definitely we have a lot of ideas that we need to swap, so we really need to talk about that."
The World No.1 will next play the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.