Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit

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The latest stage of Naomi Osaka’s complex tennis journey will see her drop to below a ranking of 80, abruptly going from a leading role into the chorus line.

Her relegation was sealed by the enormous loss of ranking points that comes with foregoing her Australian Open title, after she was knocked out in the third round by America’s Amanda Anisimova.

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Osaka will be in good company when it comes to multiple Grand Slam champions vanishing from the higher echelons of the computer.

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail Naomi Osaka relinquished her Australian Open title after losing to Amanda Anisimova

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Melbourne absentee Serena Williams will be close to 250 after this fortnight and her sister Venus outside 400 — those who hand out tournament wildcards could be busy, assuming the players are intent on carrying on and asking for them.

Osaka, 24, was in phlegmatic mood following a tight and often high-quality match that saw her go down 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 to the world No 60, losing a deciding champions’ tiebreak 10-5.

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The Japanese player, whose mammoth endorsement deals now massively outstrip her ranking status, has not managed to string together more than three consecutive wins since lifting the trophy a year ago.

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail Osaka (left) lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 to the world No 60 at the Rod Laver Arena on Friday 
Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail The Japanese has not won more than three consecutive wins since lifting the trophy a year ago

There have been long periods of introspection as she has tried to work out ways of processing defeats and handling life on an unforgiving circuit.

‘I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about that,’ she said. ‘You know, I can’t win every match, so I just have to take that into account and know that it would be nice to win the tournament.

‘I can’t think of myself trying to win the Grand Slam at the start of the year every time.’

It was back at the French Open last year that Osaka revealed that she had been suffering bouts of depression, something that emerged after a furore sparked by objections she raised to doing post-match media duties.

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail Osaka revealed at the French Open last year that she had been suffering from depression

She has played sparingly while working her way through personal issues and is trying to arrive at a place psychologically where it all makes sense.

‘I have been kind of meditating-ish — I wouldn’t want to say it’s the full meditative state,’ she said. ‘I have been writing in a journal, trying to figure out what my goals are and what I want to accomplish in this career, because I’m here at the Australian Open, but you never know when it’s going to be your last one.

‘Playing in the Rod Laver Arena every time is something that I don’t want to take for granted. I just feel like I have to shift my mentality more and, of course, be more grateful for the things that I have accomplished and the things that I want to accomplish.’

Believing that others raise their game when playing her — something that her fellow US Open champion Emma Raducanu is also discovering — Osaka certainly came out with a novel type of consolation for defeats.

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail Anisimova has long been identified as a potential champion on the WTA circuit
Naomi Osaka's Australian Open title defence ends with shock early exit
© Provided by Daily Mail But her progress has been hindered by injuries and the death of her father in 2019

‘I feel like now I am in this position where if I lose to someone, it might make a headline,’ she said. ‘But I also think it kind of grows more superstars.’ The addition of new big names is certainly what the women’s game needs, never more so than at a time when the Williams sisters are hardly seen and look set to retire.

Anisimova, an American-born Floridian of Russian extraction, has long been identified as a potential champion.

However her progress has been hindered, both by injuries and the untimely death of her father Konstantin from a sudden heart attack in 2019.

‘Last year was a huge struggle for me,’ she said. ‘Honestly, I didn’t think that I would but I really wanted to be having these moments again. Sometimes you doubt it, like what if I get injured and I’ll never be able to play in a Grand Slam again?’

At 20 years old, she has plenty of time but next faces top seed Ash Barty in the fourth round. The big Australian hope for a home winner has been steaming through the draw and has dropped only eight games in her first three matches.

Aside from Osaka the best match of yesterday saw Wimbledon men’s finalist Matteo Berrettini battle for more than four hours to see off precocious 18 year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 6-2, 7-6, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10-5).

At No 7, the Italian is the highest seed left in the top quarter of the men’s draw.

Just below him is Rafael Nadal, who stayed on course for a potential quarter-final against world No 3 Alex Zverev when he defeated Russia’s Karen Khachanov in four sets.

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