Haiti earthquake aid remains a priority for emotional Osaka

Naomi Osaka

CINCINNATI: Naomi Osaka vowed on Monday to give more than just this week’s Cincinnati Masters prize money in aid of the earthquake in her father’s native Haiti. The natural disaster which has claimed nearly 1,300 victims, prompted an immediate response from the world number two. But Osaka, who had to leave a pre-tournament press conference for a few moments to compose herself after being queried about the Caribbean tragedy, then returned to spell out her personal action plan. “I’m not really doing that much,” the four-time Grand Slam champion said. “I could do more and I’m trying to figure out where to put my energy. The prize money was the first thing I thought of that would raise the most awareness.”

The Japanese-Haitian player called the disaster “really scary. I see there was damage near my parent’s former school.” Osaka was holding her first traditional press conference since May in Rome. Her distaste for media questioning exploded at Roland Garros in May when she suggested the question-answer format was too intrusive, especially after losses, and said she would refrain from them in Paris.

After her first-round win, she answered a few questions on court but a day later quit the tournament before the second round. Osaka also skipped Wimbledon, saying she needed time to work on her mental health as a result of her post-match tennis stress level. After lighting the Olympic flame in Tokyo, Osaka lost in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova and left for the US. “I feel sad about how I did,” she said of the Games. “But I was glad for the experience, lighting the torch was fun. “It will be a really big memory for me.”

Olympic disappointment
Top seed Ashleigh Barty is working to get accustomed to hot, humid summer conditions at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters after shaking off her Tokyo Olympic disappointment. The world number one skipped last week’s US Open tuneup event in Montreal but is back and eager to get stuck into the final big event prior to the start of the Grand Slam in a fortnight.

“I’m looking forward to now changing back to hard courts and trying to find some rhythm and some groove,” she said on Monday. “It feels like a long time since I’ve played on hard courts. Miami (March) was my last hard court tournament, and the conditions there are vastly different to here. It’s going to take some time to adjust, without a doubt. But we’ll just keep chipping away and try and get the best chance in each and every match.”

Barty fell flat at the Games after training with her team in the Bahamas prior to travelling to Japan. The reigning Wimbledon champion admitted it will take some work for her to feel at ease on court this week. “This is a place where I’ve never quite felt 100 percent comfortable,” the Australian said. “But we’ve got New York right around the corner. This period of the year is always an enjoyable one, I can’t wait to get started back into some matches again.” – AFP

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