Before Wimbledon began, Naomi Osaka told reporters that grass-court tennis was not her strong suit.
“Grass, I’m not really that comfortable with it,” she said earlier this month. “As a little kid, I never played on grass.
"It's always the first tournament that's the hardest. I have only practiced twice on grass because it was raining a lot. So, I guess I'm feeling as good as I can.
“It’s just really different to everything I have played on.”
That point was driven home Monday on Centre Court. Ranked No. 2 in the world and also the No. 2 seed at Wimbledon, Osaka’s stay at the All-England club lasted all of one day after her 7-6, 6-2 loss to Yulia Putintseva, who was something of a difficult first-round draw: The world’s 39th-ranked player had beaten Osaka in each of their previous matches, including a straight-sets win at the Birmingham Classic last month.
It was the eighth time Putintseva has beaten a top 10-ranked player in her career.
“Honestly, every match is a battle, you never know what’s going to happen, but I was hoping and doing all my best, that’s pretty much all I can do,” Putintseva said, per the Associated Press. “To go out there and play my best, to do just what I can and then we’ll see what happens. And today I think I did a great job. That’s amazing.”
Osaka, the defending U.S. Open and Australian Open champion and the world’s No. 1 player until a week ago, faltered yet again at Wimbledon, where she’s failed to advance past the third round in three attempts. Last year, she was able to take only six games off eventual champion Angelique Kerber in a round-of-32 defeat.
On Monday, Osaka racked up 38 unforced errors compared with only seven for Putintseva. It was the latest disappointment since the 21-year-old won the title in Melbourne.
The loss clearly was weighing heavily on her mind after the match.
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