Tennis Prose



Analyzing Osaka’s Failure To Finish

By Scoop Malinowski

Naomi Osaka just lost to Emma Navarro 64 61 in the second round of Wimbledon, another soul-crushing defeat for the former no. 1 and Grand Slam queen.

This year has been a disappointment for the Japanese woman who has lost several three set heartbreakers in 2024 – including the second rounder to eventual champion Iga Swiatek 57 in the third after holding a commanding lead. Then in s’-Hertogenbosch Osaka lost to Bianca Andreescu 67 in the third. Next in Berlin she was knocked off by Qinwen Zheng 36 in the third.

Osaka is 20-13 on the year and ranked 113 and it’s obvious to the naked eye she is very fit, highly motivated to regain her lost status. She is playing elite level tennis on even terms with the best of the best. The physical part is there however something in her mental fortitude is missing.

But why? I have a theory. Osaka self-sabotaged her career by turning most of her massive fan base against her, because of her silly, immature, repulsive political activism. She went from adored, innocent young woman to her own fans saying. “I used to love her, now I can’t stand her.” A very sensitive soul, Osaka feels that change. Osaka is so fragile one heckle from a fan can destroy her concentration and cause her to unravel on court.

Osaka can feel the negative energy and when crunch time happens in the big matches, she falters. In the past, the positive energy of the crowds helped her win, assisted in inspiring her to play her finest tennis in the most pressure moments. Now Osaka can’t summon that magic, that secret weapon. She is no longer a crowd darling favorite. Tennis crowds respect her but they don’t love her anymore.

All the training and the best coaching in the world are not enough to make Osaka a champion again. A champion is a hero and inspiration for the people. Osaka lost that. A champion feels some responsibility and energy to play and win for themselves of course but also their country and fans. Osaka lost that. Her fanbase is sparse now. Japan doesn’t seem to be behind her like some other nations support their favorite players.

This is a unique, rare phenomena in tennis, to see a top champion ruin their own image and reputation amongst their fanbase because of behavior and actions.

It’s happened in boxing – Roberto Duran quit the rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard and lost immeasurable respect. He was ignored for a few fights but then earned another title shot and redeemed himself by beating Davey Moore in an emotional, electrifying performance at Madison Square Garden.

Osaka may need to come clean about her militant BLM political activism and clear her image. Apologize for her stupidity and immaturity. On the court Osaka seems to be playing without joy or passion. There is even some aura of shame about her body language.

Until Osaka changes this dynamic, there will remain an invisible, uncomfortable tension with tennis fans. Osaka must find a way to recreate the love and adoration feelings with tennis fans – otherwise she may never be able to reach the level of incredible tennis excellence we all saw her play.


  • catherine · July 4, 2024 at 6:08 am

    I don’t think it was Naomi’s political activism alone – she won big titles when she was very young, she had no time to grow up. That happened later and resulted in her leaving the game for a time. She’s now back with new responsibilties. I can see a coaching change in her future, among other things.

    She wouldn’t worry too much about fans. They will be back when
    the wins start coming.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 4, 2024 at 9:05 am

    Catherine, Nope, she needed the positive crowd energy and love to win in the first place. Now she can’t win without it. There’s no coach that can solve her problem with alienating fans. She must find a way to rebuild the bond she had with the public, before she decided to be a political activist tennis player. That decision is what killed her career.

  • catherine · July 4, 2024 at 9:52 am

    She was kid then. She needs a different mindset now.

    The activism was another time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 4, 2024 at 10:23 am

    She was a heroine but she turned herself into a villain. As a very sensitive soul it’s tearing her up inside. She can still play great tennis but she can’t win the big matches anymore without the love of the crowd. Hingis vs Graf French Open final is a different example of how important crowd support (and rejection) is.

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