Tennis champion Naomi Osaka, one of the biggest stars at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, made a surprise early exit, losing to World No. 42 Markéta Vondroušová in the third round.
“This is a very big story,” stunned Mary Carillo said during Olympic Channel’s live broadcast of the match, which Osaka lost in straight sets, 6:1 6:4. “The woman who lit the cauldron on Friday night here in Tokyo is out of the tournament.”
Osaka, one of the most recognizable global names in sport right now, was chosen for the last leg of the torch relay in one of the highlights of the opening ceremony on Friday. Representing Japan, she was one of host country’s biggest medal hopes at the postponed Olympics.
For four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka, this was her first tournament since withdrawing from the French Open to focus on mental health. The Olympics competition is played on Osaka’s favorite surface, hard court, where she is considered the top player in the world. She has won all of her major titles on hard court in the U.S. and Australia.
Osaka did not take questions after her loss. She later returned to the press area to answer a couple, saying that the hot, humid conditions were not a factor in her defeat.
‘I feel like I should be used to (the pressure) by now,’ she said. ‘But at the same time, the scale of everything has been a bit hard because of the break that I took. I am glad I didn’t lose in the first round at least.’
When a Japanese journalist asked, ‘How do you feel?’ Osaka did not respond. Visibly upset she left, accompanied by her agent.
Despite often being referred to as the No.1 female tennis player in the world, including by NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico during the Olympics Opening Ceremony last week, Osaka is actually No.2 behind Australia’s Ashleigh Barty who also left the Tokyo singles tournament early in an upset (she is still competing in women’s doubles and mixed doubles).