Tokyo — Naomi Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round of the Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament Tuesday.
Osaka, who was born in Japan but grew up in the United States, struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes while the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew her opponent out of her comfort zone.
Osaka, whoin Friday’s opening ceremony, won her opening two matches in straight sets following a two-month mental-health break. But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.
Shortly after the match was over, organizers said that Osaka had left the venue and wouldn’t be talking to the media.
Osaka skipped Wimbledon earlier this month.
She withdrew from the French Open in May, a day after she wasfor refusing to appear at tournament news conferences, writing that those media appearances caused “huge waves of anxiety.” Osaka had announced on the eve of the Grand Slam tournament that .
an essay in Time magazine, saying “it’s O.K. to not be O.K.”and her decision to drop out of the French Open in
On the day before her loss, Osaka tweeted that she was “here for a good time”:
And she took to Twitter after the opening ceremony to thank her fellow citizens:
Reaction in Japan began with “Masaka,” which means “No way.”
And people quickly turned to an outpouring of sympathy.
“Watching you gave me courage. You don’t have to win a medal. Watching you play is enough for all your fans,” said Yuji Taida, a novelist.
Japanese media relayed urgent reports on her loss, with “masaka” in the headlines.
“Her mother’s motherland. Her dream to stand at the pinnacle, with the rising sun on her heart, was not to be,” reported Sports Hochi, a Japanese daily sports newspaper.
The stock of Japanese tennis racket maker Yonex, one of her major corporate sponsors, plunged Tuesday as she lost, but recovered much of the ground later.
For many Japanese, the Japan-born Osaka, whose father is Haitian, has grown to personify a ray of hope for diversity in a nation long linked with discrimination and intolerance for differences.
Some Japanese said it broke their hearts to imagine how much Osaka had wanted to win the gold for her country.
“She has her principles about her pride for Japan, and playing for Japan, while also being proud of her diverse roots in having a Haitian father and living in the U.S.,” said lawyer Atusko Nishiyama, who was already starting to worry Osaka might get attacked for her loss.
Nishiyama said she had been impressed by Osaka’s statements on, such as last year when she wore masks bearing names of black people who had been killed.
“Compared to her courage, it is so sad some people are still at a very low level,” Nishiyama said.
While news reports speculated whether it hurt her not to play for two months and referred to how Osaka had talked about her bouts with depression and then sat out Wimbledon, Japan’s response was overwhelmingly one of doting love.