Playing just her second match on clay in two years, Naomi Osaka exited the Madrid Masters on Sunday falling to Karolina Muchova in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
Osaka was down big in all three sets, but only managed the second against the Czech who collected her third Top 10 win of 2021.
“I think what I can take away from this is that I tried my best throughout the entire match, and usually I feel like, I don’t know, I have dips sometimes but I think I was quite neutral and I can be positive about that,” Osaka said.
“I think tennis-wise for me I felt I was too defensive in the first set. I think halfway through the second set I was able to adjust that, and then the third set honestly I feel I just started off really bad and I couldn’t afford to do that.
“Then the last three games I think she was just serving really well, and unfortunately I couldn’t hold my serve. I wouldn’t say I’m happy that I lost, but I think I learned a lot. So that’s all I can hope for.”
Muchova, who stunned No. 1 Ash Barty at the Australian Open, will now move into the Top 20 for a first time.
“I was trying to move her as much as possible,” Muchova said. “That was the tactic. Yeah, it sounds easy like that, but, you know, she’s playing really fast so it’s not that easy on the court.
“In the second set especially she started to be very aggressive. Yeah, I got back with what I did in the first set in the third set, and again, tried to move her left, right, dropshots but still in a fast way. In the third set, yeah, it went my way.”
Former No. 1s Victoria Azarenka and Karolina Pliskova also exited. Azarenka pulled out due to a lower back injury putting Jessica Pegula into the third round. The 31-year-old Azarenka has already given three walkovers this year.
Pliskova beat Coco Gauff in the first round but today her struggles continued in a 6-0, 7-5 loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The remaining favorites all cruised into the third round. Simona Halep blew through Saisai Zheng 6-0, 6-4; Jen Brady crushed Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-1 and Arnya Sabalenka, Elise Mertens and Maria Sakkari advanced.
On Monday, the last two French Open winners, Ash Barty and Iga Swaitek, meet. Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova also return with quarterfinal spots on the line.
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