Japan Women’s Open Tennis, Tokyo
[CR64] Irina Falconi (USA) vs. [CR190] Naomi Osaka (JPN)
Falconi fought off the inspired play by Japanese teenager, Osaka. Falconi was on the ropes for about sixty percent of the match. She was actually down a break in the second set before she dug deep to claim the victory. It was a combination of Osaka thinking a little too much about winning the match and getting anxious and Falconi believing in her game. She has been in situations like this before and came out victorious; thus, despite being two games away from defeat, she was able to turn the match around. She has to be careful though, in tournaments where there are no days off, these mentally and physically draining matches can take a toll in the latter stages.
Although it was probably not the way she intended to play this match; after all she was expected to win as the higher ranked player. Yet, Osaka was not deterred by the difference in their ranking. This match showed the complete cycle of confidence followed by doubt. Osaka started off the match brimming with confidence, going after her shots with abandon. Then when it appeared that victory was two games away, she got nervous. Her shots that were previously winners became errors. On the other side of the net, Falconi was struggling to find her range. When it seemed that defeat was two games away, suddenly she found her belief and her game. Evidence that the mental aspect may be the more important than physical ability was proven once again when Falconi won 5-7, 7-5, 6-3. She can expect another battle in the next round against Saisai Zheng, who defeated American Alison Riske.