PARIS, France - World No.1 Naomi Osaka, who was upset in the third round of Roland Garros today by the unseeded Katerina Siniakova, revealed afterwards that she has been feeling the tension all week.
"I haven't been able to relax since I got here," the 21-year-old told the press. "This tournament I have had a feeling that was different to every other Grand Slam that I have played - because usually I find it very freeing and fun, and this time around I was kind of tense the entire time... I have been tense even when I'm sleeping."
Osaka had been riding a 14-match winning streak in Grand Slams, having stunned Serena Williams in the final of last year's US Open to capture her maiden major and followed it up by overcoming Petra Kvitova in a classic three-set Australian Open final in January. But she needed to claw her way back from the brink of defeat in both of her first two rounds in Paris: opening the tournament by dropping a bagel set to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Osaka was two points from a first-round exit before recovering to win 0-6, 7-6(4), 6-1; and in the second round, she trailed Victoria Azarenka 4-6, 2-4 before turning the match around 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Both of those battles displayed some of Osaka's best champion qualities as she found her finest shots with her back to the wall. But there was to be no third escape against a dialled-in Siniakova today as the doubles World No.1 pressed home her lead to win 6-4, 6-2.
Osaka's run in Melbourne proved how well the highest-ranked Japanese player in history could deal with expectation, becoming the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win her second Grand Slam title immediately after her first. But questions over a potential third in a row - and from there, a non-calendar year Grand Slam - proved to be too much of a "weight", according to Osaka.
"I think I was overthinking this calendar slam," she admitted to the press. "For me this is something that I have wanted to do forever, but I think I have to think about it like: If it was that easy, everyone would have done it."
It's not the happiest of moments for Osaka - although she was careful to put her words in perspective. "I feel like saying that 'I'm depressed' is a very strong statement," she pointed out. "Because I felt that way before, and it's not as extreme as that. So I would just say I'm very disappointed in how I played, and I wish I could have done better... I think it's a natural part of life, especially if you train super hard for moments like these, and then you don't perform how you want to."
There's a silver lining, though: if the pressure of the Grand Slam was weighing on Osaka, it's now been lifted. "It's weird, but I think me losing is probably the best thing that could have happened," she offered. "Results-wise, I think this is definitely the best clay season I have had. Semis, two quarters, and, like, I didn't lose in the first round.
"I can't really say too many negative things about this... we can only look towards the future."