By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka believes she is finally getting to grips with claycourt tennis as she is about to start her first grand slam as the top seed at this year’s French Open.
The world number one from Japan has won the last two majors — the U.S. and Australian Opens — but she has yet to claim a title on the slowest surface.
“Definitely for me I feel like I should be an all-court player. Honestly, it’s been a bit of a ride trying to figure out how to play better on clay throughout these years, but I think this year I have been playing well,” Osaka told reporters ahead of the May 26-June 9 tournament at Roland Garros.
“So I’m really excited to see what happens here.”
Osaka reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome on the red dirt this season.
Looking to improve her claycourt skills, she spent a bit of time at 11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal’s academy.
“I was able to go there for a little bit in between Germany and Spain. It was really nice,” she said.
“Everyone is very nice and helpful. And then I met Rafa. So that was really cool.”
Her claycourt results and her recent success at the majors have boosted her confidence.
“I don’t want to be here thinking I want to get to the
quarters,” she said even though her best result at the French Open was reaching the third round in 2016 and last year.
“I have never been that far here before, but my end goal is to win, of course.”
Osaka will start her campaign against Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova before a potentially explosive second round clash against two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka or 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko.
Serena Williams, the 23-time major champion, could be her quarter-final opponent while defending champion Simona Halep is a potential semi-final obstacle.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)