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Japan’s great hope for tennis gold was dashed on Tuesday, when world number two Naomi Osaka lost in the third round of the Tokyo Games.
Days after lighting the Olympic cauldron, Japan’s Osaka suffered a 6-1 6-4 loss to Czech player Marketa Vondrousova.
Osaka never settled into a rhythm on the courts. She made 18 unforced errors throughout the match… three times more errors than Vondrousova.
It was Osaka’s first tournament since pulling out of the French Open in May, when she announced she had been suffering from depression for almost three years.
Osaka had said she would skip post-match press conferences to raise awareness of players' mental well-being… but after her Olympic defeat, she told reporters (quote) "I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure, this time around.”
Adding: "I think it's maybe because I haven't played in an Olympics before and for the first one to be here was a bit much.”
Some Tokyo residents sympathized with Osaka’s mental health challenges:
TOKYO RESIDENT, YASUKO SAWACHI: "I honestly think the anxiety is still impacting her a bit. Her defeat was a bit fast so I think she wasn't in a perfect state.”
Others expressed disappointment, saying they wanted to see her soar at the Olympics.
Japan's Kei Nishikori - who achieved a three-set victory in men’s singles after Osaka’s loss - said her elimination was ‘sad’… adding (quote) ”I knew she had a lot of pressure, this is her first time Olympics and I know it's not easy.”