Billie Jean King's classic line says that "pressure is a privilege," and Indian Wells champ Naomi Osaka may very well be finding that the road gets a lot tougher with great expectations.
After posting convincing, straight-sets victories over Jennifer Brady and Laura Siegemund – no slouches, those – at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston this past week, the 20-year-old felt a flurry of emotions that happened to coincide with an on-court coaching occasion. Sascha Bajin did his best to both console and coach his charge in a courtside appearance with microphone.
Bajin encouraged the WTA No. 22 Osaka at length, enticing her to play through toward the chance to take a couple days off post-tournament and seeking to make her a believer that she could beat No. 13 Goerges, a venerable clay-court player, at 75 percent of her own power. He recommended Osaka gather her thoughts and emotions while placing a towel over her head to shut out the surrounding noise (a classic Vera Zvonareva move).
Osaka ultimately dropped the match by a 7-6 (4), 6-3 score. Goerges would go on to beat Indian Wells runner-up Daria Kasatkina as well and post a finalist finish to Kiki Bertens. Expect that the talent-loaded Osaka will regroup and come back strong over this 2018 clay-court season.
Follow Jon on Twitter @jonscott9.
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