Djokovic Inspires Osaka at Wimbledon Ahead of Daughter’s Birthday

Japan’s Naomi Osaka during a practice session at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London on Sunday.

LONDON(AFP-Jiji) — Naomi Osaka said Sunday she hopes to mark her daughter’s first birthday by making a winning return to Wimbledon thanks to a helping hand from Novak Djokovic.

The Japanese superstar, a four-time Grand Slam champion and a former world number one, hasn’t played at the All England Club since 2019.

Osaka takes on Diane Parry of France in her opener on Monday, the day before she celebrates daughter Shai’s first birthday.

“She’s one on Tuesday so it will be very exciting day,” said the 26-year-old.

“It’s been a great journey and I’m lucky and blessed to have happy girl with lots of energy. It’s a dream to be here with her now.”

Osaka’s four majors came on the hard courts of the US Open and Australian Open.

She made the third round at Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018, losing to former champions Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber respectively.

Her most recent appearance in 2019 was brief with a first round loss to Yulia Putintseva.

In order to improve her chances at this year’s tournament, Osaka has sounded out seven-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic.

“I tried to slide on grass. I asked Novak how he did it. I have tried a few times but it has been scary. I think I may have to wait for the grass to get brown a little,” she said.

“But he told me no matter if he falls he keeps getting up and doing it. He said I have to overcome the fear of getting hurt.”

Osaka, who only returned to the tour at the start of the year afer maternity leave, is ranked at 113 in the world and required a wild card to play at Wimbledon.

At the recent French Open, she gave world number one Iga Swiatek a mighty scare, holding a match point in their second round clash before the Pole prevailed.

Since then she made the quarter-finals of the grass-court tournament at ‘s-Hertogenbosch and pushed world number eight Zheng Qinwen to three sets in the opening round in Berlin.

“It’s a little weird as I feel I have been playing really well this year but just not making a lot of quarter-finals,” said Osaka.

“I feel that had I not played Iga, I could have gone a long way in Paris. I just need some luck.”

She added: “I lost first round in Berlin, but I learned lot. I’m feeling pretty good about myself. People tell me I have game for grass.”