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Osaka ready for her family reunion after confidence-boosting week in Rome

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Osaka ready for her family reunion after confidence-boosting week in Rome

Former No.1 Naomi Osaka’s strong week at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia ended Monday in the fourth round. Facing down her first Top 10 player this season, Osaka could not find a way through Australian Open finalist and World No.7 Zheng Qinwen.

The four-time major champion fell 6-2, 6-4 but leaves Rome on a bittersweet note. After posting three solid wins, including her first two career Top 20 wins on clay, Osaka will work her way toward Paris to not only prepare for the French Open but also reunite with her daughter.

“Shai is a really curious kid,” Osaka said. “She likes to look at things. She probably won’t remember, but I would love to take her to all the famous landmarks and take pictures so I can show her when she grows up.”

Then Osaka remembered what she does for a living and laughed.

“But she’s probably going to do that every year,” Osaka said. “So … it’s going to be her first year, so it’s a special one.”

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Before Paris, Osaka will return to Mallorca for another solid training block. The move paid off handsomely after her early loss at the Mutua Madrid Open two weeks ago. She spent that time training and visualizing how she wanted her clay-court tennis to look. She watched loads of videos of other players, like Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, and Andrey Rublev. She plans to continue her homework with tapes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova’s adjustments to the surface over the years.

“I think I definitely feel a lot more confident leaving [Rome] than when I came,” she said. “I hope that I can learn a lot from the match I played today and apply it and do really well in Paris.”

Facing down Zheng, who took her to three sets on hard courts two years ago, Osaka conceded she may have psyched herself out.

“I feel like I expected a lot from her, and it made me very overwhelmed with my own game,” Osaka said. “I don’t really know how to articulate that properly. I think sometimes I felt like I had no choice but to do something because she might play it this way. In reality, it wasn’t like that at all. I kind of only understood that in the second set.

“I’m pretty happy that I was able to play this match because I will learn a lot from it. I’ll learn that the level’s not that different. It’s kind of just more key moments I would say, staying mentally very resilient in myself and my abilities.”

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