Tennis Prose



Is Osaka Afraid To Beat Serena?

Remember the days when Naomi Osaka had no fear of playing Serena Williams, in fact, in younger days she eagerly anticipated the chance to play and beat Serena and even trash talked her. Before their first court encounter Osaka said with a mischevious smile how she was looking forward to “to make her yell CMON.”

Osaka beat Serena the first two times they played, the second clash in the 2018 US Open final 62 64, a triumph that was overshadowed by Serena’s raging tirade against chair umpire Carlos Ramos for warning and penalizing her for her coach’s coaching hand signals. Serena’s firestorm ruined Osaka’s victory and even caused her to cry during her victory speech.

Since then, Osaka has never beaten Serena, losing at Canada Open QF in 2019, 63 64 and earlier this year in the Adelaide SF 62 26 10-7.

You have to wonder if Serena has traumatized Osaka to being afraid to dare to beat Serena ever again. Like what happened to Sloane Stephens after she beat Serena in the 2013 Australian Open QF 36 75 64. After the match, Sloane and Serena had a social media war, where Serena told Sloane two days after the match on Twitter: “I made you.”

Sloane said she never had good relations with Serena, who refused to sign a poster for her in Fed Cup when she was a kid and contributed nothing to her junior development: “For the first sixteen years of my life, she said one word to me and was never involved in my tennis whatsoever,” said Stephens back in 2013. “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal that she’s not involved now. If you mentor someone, that means you speak to them, that means you help them, that means you know about their life, that means you care about them. Are any of those things true at this moment? No, so therefore…”

Eventually Sloane and Serena aired out their differences face to face and supposedly mended their poor relations. However the damage was done. Sloane may have also been traumatized by the blasphemy of beating Serena as she has lost every match since to Serena, all five, including two at US Open and one at French Open. Clearly, beating Serena in a high-profile stage has negative psychological consequences.

Osaka, like Sloane, has also shown signs of being traumatized by beating Serena. She no longer dares to trash talk Serena like she did a few years ago. Instead, she talks about Serena in carefully guarded words. Yesterday after she beat Su-wei Hsieh in the QF, Osaka said this about Serena: “I played with her in Adelaide. It was really fun. I think, I don’t know, I think we’ll represent our teams very proudly…. She’s someone that I feel really intimidated by when I see her on the other side of the court.”

Does it appear as if poor Osaka is a victim of psychological bullying by Serena Williams?

It’s a shame that Williams has intimidated Osaka to having feelings of reluctance and even some fear of beating her.

It’s a shame that Osaka is no longer free to feel and say she wants to make Serena yell CMON or to playfully trash talk her in any way. It’s a shame Osaka has been intimidated to relinquish her freedom of speech, to talk in a natural manner, reflecting the great champion she is.

Don’t be surprised if the match is already over. And Naomi Osaka psychologically defers to Serena tonight and loses in straight sets, showing suppressed fighting spirit and a half-hearted effort. Simply because she’s been mentally bullied to be afraid to beat Serena.

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  • catherine · February 18, 2021 at 1:52 am

    The match is over Scoop. And you need another crystal ball.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Catherine, Serena showed a lot of class in this match, she had Osaka intimidated and nervous and uncomfortable in the beginnning. It looked like Osaka did not want to be there, it looked like she was tanking, but then down 0-2 Osaka’s pride reminded her who she is and how great she is. She’s better than Serena in everything, movement, shots, coordination, just not experience. She moved Serena more and made her change direction two or three times in the point and Serena can’t move like that anymore. She also challenged and beat Serena’s forehand. Serena fought and summoned her beast mode and roared and screamed and tried to will herself back into the match but smoke and mirrors are not enough for her against a calibre of foe as Osaka. The better player on, Osaka was on the way to a dismal, subconscious tank but woke up and said no way big sister, this is my time, your time is over. Osaka deserves a lot of credit and respect for how she handles these strange mental matches with Serena, who traumatized her (her word) at US Open. Shame on Serena for traumatizing such a great young player. It’s time to retire and move on and let the kids have their time. I bet every WTA player would like to see Serena quit this year, but none would dare say it.

  • catherine · February 18, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Naomi on Fisette’s influence in a previous match:

    “For me, I felt like Wim told me so much information before the match, it wasn’t really clicking. But the closer it got, the more I felt like I could rely on that information.”

    Maybe this comment also hints as to why things didn’t work out for Fisette/Kerber,in the long run.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Fisette is clearly a master coach who gets extraordinary results with just about every player he is asked to help. Osaka has not lost a match under his guidance, except for that exo to Serena in Adelaide. Osaka looks better than ever, a friend said she looks like the best player of all time. And she could be, she could be playing the best tennis we ever saw by a female. Down two match points to Muguruza and she just increased her focus and her play and she got the job done. That was scary how well she handled that danger and overcame it. The confidence was there, the aura of invincibility. And Fisette has undoubtedly been the deciding factor which has evoked this amazing level from Osaka. There are some standout master coaches out there and Fisette and Brady’s coach Michael Geserer are at the top of the list. My guess is the reason Fisette has bounced around a bit as a coach is money issues with certain players who didn’t want to pay up. Just my opinion based on experience. One former Grand Slam champ actually had to sue a certain WTA player to get the money she was owed.

  • catherine · February 19, 2021 at 2:02 am

    Quote from a quote re Fisette/coaching:

    ‘The split with Angie was interesting. He felt she had lost motivation after she achieved her goal of winning Wimby, and money was also an issue. He also talked about how Angie had to play her most aggressive tennis to be successful, even if her natural bent was to be more defensive.’

    My guess is that Naomi is better at handling, retaining, and processing the technical analysis Wim is providing, and is probably ok with the money side since the results are coming.

    Splitting with Fisette pretty much rang down the curtain on Angie’s career. Her comments at the AO, after she lost 1st round, were just shabby.

    (btw similar situation with Johanna Konta & Wim)

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 19, 2021 at 8:45 am

    Catherine, Fisette is in a much more secure job position now, because Osaka is a better player than Kerber and she has many more years ahead of her to keep winning and earning millions. It’s very possible Osaka is a superior version of Serena, moves better, better disposition, better athletic coordination and also a very very good competitor in crunch time. Plus Fisette may be a better coach than Serena ever had. It may be time to send Mouratoglou home. I’d like to see Serena hire Rennae Stubbs as her next coach.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 19, 2021 at 9:51 am

    It’s scary how good Medvedev is. Just dissected and dominated Tsitsipas and made it look easy. Djokovic has his hands full. Very very interesting final.



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