Naomi Osaka wasn’t happy with herself. Uncharacteristically she made it clear.
After losing the second set tiebreak to young Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, she flung her racket along the baseline after earlier spiking it in frustration over a missed shot.
“While I was playing, honestly, I was cursing myself out,” Osaka said during an on-court interview afterward, “so you wouldn’t want to know what I was saying.”
As she occasionally does in pressure moments, Osaka sat with a towel over her head on the changeover after second set, seeking what she calls her inner peace. That was after failing to convert any of six break points in the second set that would have led to a relatively comfortable Friday afternoon on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the third round of the U.S. Open.
“It's what I do in times of extreme anger and frustration,” Osaka said. “If I simplified it, what I was thinking was I have a really good opportunity to do well in this tournament, and I'm aware that all the matches that I'm going to play is going to be very difficult. So I just need to, like, reel in my emotions and fight as hard as I can for this third set.”
And that’s what she did. It took two and half hours and three sets, but the 2018 U.S. Open champion dispatched the promising 18-year-old, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2.
After being broken twice and losing the first set, Kostyuk took the first of two medical timeouts to have her right ankle rewrapped. That situation, along with a struggle to get her first serve in and some audible frustrations with her play did not bode well.
But she continued to go for her shots and earned her first break on Osaka’s serve in the seventh game of the second set for a 4-3 lead. Serving for the set at 5-4, Kostyuk was broken and Osaka took the set to the tiebreak where, after getting a mini-break early, she eventually gave it up and thus the set.
After the third game of the third set, Kostyuk called for the trainer again and got her ankle rewrapped, though she seemed to be moving fine and ran down plenty of balls. That was another point of frustration for Osaka, waiting well over five minutes before she had to serve, down 1-2, in the fourth game.
“It was an unfortunate timing, personally, for me, to just have a long break right before I'm about to serve,” Osaka said. “But situations like that happen, and honestly what I was thinking was just to, like, stay calm and not use too much energy, if that makes sense.”
Osaka then went down 0-40 on her serve, a potentially big hole when already trailing 1-2. “I was down very quickly, it felt,” she said. “But, yeah, luckily my serve backed me up in times of great crisis.”
From that point she played a far more forceful game as Kostyuk then started to fade. Osaka won the next four games to take the match.
It was a pretty good day for American women.
Caty McNally, 18, usually known better as Coco Gauff’s doubles partner, defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 21st seed, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2). Gauff was ousted in the first round.
American Jennifer Brady defeated Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 6-3. Brady, 25, won her first title in August when the WTA Tour restarted in Lexington, Kentucky, beating Gauff along the way.