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Osaka sets sights on ‘cool’ Grand Slam sweep

Eye on 2019 Grand Slam: Naomi Osaka in action at last year’s French Open © AFP/File / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

PARIS, France, May 24 – Naomi Osaka said Friday it would be “cool” to complete a Grand Slam sweep in 2019 even if her meteoric rise to fame has left her feeling as if she’s 35 rather than 21.

The world number one won her first major at the US Open last year and then backed it up with the Australian Open in January.

Now she is top seed at a major for the first time at Roland Garros and sees no reason why she cannot take Paris, Wimbledon and finish the year with a successful defence of her title in New York.

“Roland Garros, that’s what I’m dreaming about right now,” said Osaka, the top seed when the French Open starts on Sunday.

“If you’re talking about longer goals, of course I haven’t won Wimbledon yet and it would be really cool to win everything in one year.”

Germany’s Steffi Graf was the last woman to win a calendar Grand Slam in 1988.

Before her, it is a feat only achieved by Margaret Court in 1970 and Maureen Connolly in 1953.

Despite Osaka having yet to get past the third round in Paris, she insists she increasingly feels that winning Slams is part of her destiny.

“I feel really old, but actually, I’m 21. I feel like when I talk to you guys, it’s like I’m talking like I’m a 35-year-old person that’s been through a lot.

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“I always had really big goals and dreams. I always thought I would be No. 1 and win a Grand Slam when I was 18. I know that sounds kind of crazy.

“When that didn’t happen, I was a little bit depressed. I was thinking, like, I’m late, like, I’m kind of late to the party.

“Yeah, then I kind of realise that everyone has their own path. I’m not really supposed to compare myself to anyone else and I should just keep working as hard as I can, and eventually I’ll get to where I want to be.”

Despite her off-court coyness, Osaka’s on-court confidence is growing even if it’s not particularly shared by her family.

“This year (in Melbourne) I called my mom in, like, the second round. I was, like, ‘Do you want to come to Australia because I’m going to win this tournament?’ She was, like, ‘No’,” said Osaka on Friday.

“She’s like, ‘No, I’m with your sister. No thank you’. I was, like, ‘Okay’.

“In Australia, the goal was to win. That was what I was waking up every day thinking. You know, like the walk through the tunnel, like, you see the two trophies. I would kind of tap that, the woman’s trophy side.”

Osaka arrives in Paris having not reached a final since her Australian Open triumph while her clay season has been mixed.

She made the quarter-finals in Madrid while an abdominal strain forced an early withdrawal from Stuttgart before a hand injury led to retirement in Rome last week.

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“It gets better every day, so hopefully by the time that I play my match, it’s 100%.

“I practised for the past two days, so it’s going well. Yeah, I’m currently very cold because I just took an ice bath, but other than that, I feel good.”

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