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Naomi Osaka: Japanese star on tuning out doubters and watching Rafael Nadal to improve on clay

Naomi Osaka enters the clay-court season still a "student" on the dirt but she is looking to learn from the 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal ahead of the Madrid Open; Osaka has slipped to world No 36 since taking a break from tennis following the US Open

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Naomi Osaka says she is nervous about playing on clay ahead of the Madrid Open as she hasn't played on the surface in a while

Naomi Osaka hopes to filter out any negativity in her preparation for the clay-court season as she continues to heal from being heckled in a second-round loss at Indian Wells last month.

The four-time Grand Slam champion was broken in the first game at the tournament in California when a fan shouted "Naomi, you suck" and Osaka could later be seen wiping away tears.

However, Osaka said her focus was on the positive.

"Even though I really hated the experience, I'm glad it happened to me. Indian Wells was one of those moments. I wish it didn't happen but I'm glad it did"
Naomi Osaka on filtering out any negativity

"I'm not going to lie, it's not like everyday is being perfect," Osaka told reporters when speaking about her struggles with mental health.

"I talk to my therapist at least once a week and I just try to be more open to things. Say something happens that kind of throws me off my groove, I try to see it from a different perspective. I was talking to my therapist about that, being more open to all the possibilities.

"I would say that filtering the negativity from a minority is something that I'm getting better at doing. I'm doing mental exercises to focus on the positive," Osaka added, explaining that she is staying away from Twitter because "it is way more negative than Instagram".

She also said the Indian Wells experience allowed her another opportunity to grow as a person, saying: "Even though I really hated the experience, I'm glad it happened to me. Indian Wells was one of those moments. I wish it didn't happen but I'm glad it did."

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After losing in straight sets to current world No 1 Iga Swiatek in the Miami Open final earlier this month, Osaka went to Rafael Nadal's home in Mallorca to prepare for the clay-court season where the 21-time Grand Slam champion helped inspire her to make a few tweaks to her game.

"I stole one of the things that he does and I've been practicing it recently so it will either go really good or really bad. There is no in-between," said Osaka, who also studied Nick Kyrgios' serve in Los Angeles. "But I think as I've been doing it, it's been going pretty well.

"Honestly I've been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I'm the type of person that learns really fast if I see it up close, and honestly it's a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them. I've kind of wanted to see (Carlos) Alcaraz, so it'd be cool to watch everyone practice."

Naomi Osaka of Japan smiles during her first round match against Camila Osorio of Colombia at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Simon Baker)
Image: Osaka is not setting any targets ahead of the French Open, which begins on May 22

Clay is not Osaka's strongest surface as she has never gone beyond the third round at the French Open. However, she said she was not setting any targets ahead of Roland Garros next month.

"I'm taking one tournament at a time," Osaka said. "Of course, I want to win matches and reach the semis either here in Madrid or in Rome (Italian Open), hopefully win, but I'll set little goals first."

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