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‘Naomi Osaka’ docuseries takes intimate look at tennis star

It was taped over a two-year period starting with the 2019 U.S. Open. It concludes in early 2021 before Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.

LOS ANGELES — Those looking for definitive answers about Naomi Osaka and how she copes with the demands of her career and fame shouldn’t expect to find them in a new Netflix docuseries about the four-time Grand Slam champion.

It’s the tennis star’s unresolved questions that are the heart of “Naomi Osaka,” director-producer Garrett Bradley said of the series that was taped over a two-year period starting with the 2019 U.S. Open. Production concluded in early 2021 before Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.

The three-part series debuting Friday is a contemplative, intimate look at a young athlete finding her way. Film of major tournaments, wins and losses, is interwoven with scenes of Osaka’s time with family and her boyfriend, the rapper Cordae; her training and business demands; Osaka’s reflections on her career, multiracial identity and the death of mentor Kobe Bryant, and her decision to protest police killings of Black men and women.

“It was really important for me to not go into the project with an agenda or really even with an opinion,” Bradley, a 2021 Oscar nominee for the documentary “Time,” said. “I really tried to open myself up to her world and where she was at, and tried to understand the sort of essence of who she was.”

As filming progressed, she said, it became clear that the series’ foundation would be the conundrums faced not only by Osaka but society at large.

Those inquiries are “connected to value systems and self-definition, and how one can create a more holistic understanding of themselves in any given environment that they find themselves in,” said Bradley, whose fellow producers include LeBron James, under the umbrella of his SpringHill production company.

Osaka, 23, who was not made available for an interview, withdrew from the French Open last May, citing “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and revealing that she has suffered long bouts of depression.

She also skipped the just-ended Wimbledon, with her agent saying she wanted personal time, but is expected to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics for her native Japan. Osaka was just a few years old when she, her sister and their Japanese mother and Haitian father moved to the United States.

In a Time magazine essay published July 8, Osaka wrote that, “Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight. I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”

“I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel,” she said, thanking Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps and other public figures for offering support.

The Netflix docuseries includes footage of Osaka and her sister, Mari, on the court as youngsters, with the tennis star recalling spending at least eight hours a day at practice, adding, “I was just tired.”

Mari Osaka, 25, also played professional tennis but said in a social media post in March that she was retiring from the sport because it was “a journey which I didn’t enjoy ultimately.”

The docuseries sketches a portrait of Naomi Osaka as thoughtful and driven to succeed but struggling to cope with her sport’s demands and her future. At one moment of self-reflection she says, “So what am I, if not a good tennis player?”

Filmmaker Bradley cautions that the series should not be seen as definitive, but rather a snapshot of a brief period in a life that continues to “evolve and grow.”

“This moment that we captured was her in the process of a learning curve, which I think she directly articulates really beautifully, (that) there are elements of fame that are hard to be prepared for,” Bradley said. “The sustenance that she finds is in accepting where she is currently in this moment, and certainly in her family and in her loved ones, but also is in finding her own voice. And that includes choosing when to use it and when not to.”

Asked how she perceived Osaka’s emotional well-being, Bradley said she considers her “an incredibly strong and really brilliant person.”

“She’s in control of her own narrative, and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

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Tennis star Roger Federer withdraws from Tokyo Olympics

Federer turns 40 on Aug. 8 and is unsure of his future after a quarterfinal loss at the All England Club and two operations on his right knee last year.

WASHINGTON — Roger Federer will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, writing on social media Tuesday that he “experienced a setback” with his knee during the grass-court season.

Federer had said before Wimbledon that he would make a decision about going to the Summer Games after the Grand Slam tournament ended.

The 39-year-old from Switzerland lost in the quarterfinals at the All England Club last week to Hubert Hurkacz.

Federer had two operations on his right knee in 2020 and went more than a full year between matches. He returned to Grand Slam action at the French Open and then pulled out of that tournament after three victories, saying he wanted to be rested and ready for the grass circuit — especially Wimbledon.

On Tuesday, he said in a post on Twitter that because of the setback, he has “accepted that I must withdraw from the Tokyo Olympic Games. I am greatly disappointed, as it has been an honor and highlight of my career each time I have represented Switzerland.”

Federer won a gold medal alongside Stan Wawrinka in doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver in singles at the 2012 London Olympics, losing to Britain’s Andy Murray in the final at the All England Club.

Federer sat out the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games because of problems with his left knee.

“I have already begun rehabilitation in the hopes of returning to the tour later this summer,” wrote Federer, who turns 40 on Aug. 8.

The U.S. Open, the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, is scheduled to begin Aug. 30 in New York.

Federer joins a growing list of tennis stars who are not going to Tokyo, where COVID-19 cases have been rising as the July 23 opening ceremony approaches.

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios are among the players who will not be competing for medals.

Novak Djokovic, who tied Federer and Nadal for the men’s record by winning his 20th major championship at Wimbledon on Sunday, said after the final that he was 50-50 on whether to go to the Games.

On the eve of Wimbledon’s start, Federer was asked where things stood for him on Tokyo.

“My feeling is I would like to go to the Olympics. I would like to play as many tournaments as possible. But I think we decided now, let’s just get through Wimbledon, sit down as a team, and then decide where we go from there,” he said then. “I wish I could tell you more. In previous years, it was definitely easier. At the moment, things are not as simple as in the past. With age, you have to be more selective. You can’t play it all.”

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Marcus Rashford defends tennis star Raducanu after Wimbledon exit – ‘Happened to me’

The 18-year-old became a darling of the country on her way to the last-16 at the All England Club. It was the best debut by a British woman in the tournament since 1979. However, she was forced to retire due to breathlessness during the clash against Ajla Tomljanovic on Monday.

The British teenager was 4-6 0-3 down when she became breathless and had to take a medical break which caused officials to call off the match.

This prompted criticism of the young player from the likes of former champion John McEnroe.

Mr McEnroe said after the match: “It appears that it just got a little bit too much, as is understandable, particularly [with] what we’ve been talking about this last six weeks with Naomi Osaka not even here.”

England striker Rashford, preparing for his historic Euro 2020 semi-final with Denmark, leapt to defend Ms Raducanu in a thoughtful message on Twitter.

READ MORE:Emma Raducanu responds to Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Rashford

Cricketer Kevin Pietersen wrote that “mental toughness is what separates the good from the great in sport”.

Two-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, along with his mother tennis coach Judy Murray, questioned these opinions.

“No question mental toughness can be what separates the best in sport but surely both of you aren’t judging her mental toughness on yesterday’s match?!” the Wimbledon star responded to Mr McEnroe.

His mother urged people to remember Ms Raducanu is still a teenager.

“Middle-aged men should generally avoid commenting on the physical or mental well-being of teenage girls. They will never experience or fully understand that world,” Mrs Murray said.

Ms Raducanu is still awaiting her A level results and since announcing her retirement from Wimbledon has said that “the whole experience just caught up with me”.

She went on to thank fans for “the best time of my life” and vowed to return better than before.

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Former GB tennis player and sports psychologist explains Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon exit

Dr Amanda Owens told GB News that 18-year old Emma Raducanu was thrust into the limelight and had a lot of pressure placed on her by the UK. She added that the rising tennis star must be protected and needs to be given time to rest and recover after her remarkable run at Wimbledon.

Dr Owens said: “I think there are a number of factors here, the fact she is 18.

“She got thrust into the limelight, she has got a great team around her however I think we need to look after her.

“She needs to look at what she has achieved in the last few weeks which is really incredible.

“Certainly, she is not used to the media limelight and we need to protect her.”

READ MORE: John McEnroe blasted for Emma Raducanu comments after Wimbledon exit

She continued: “Also, the breathing problems could be a number of factors.

“We do not know exactly what has happened here.

“She has never had the experience of playing on Court One that late, she had a lot of pressure on her from the UK, everyone was backing her and was very excited.

“It could be a number of factors here but we need to look after her and she needs to rest and recover.”

Ajla Tomljanovic, Ms Raducanu’s opponent in the last 16, said: “I am actually really kind of shocked,” 

She continued: “It’s obviously so bittersweet because Emma must be really, really hurt if she came to the decision to retire.

“To play as a Brit at home, it’s unbelievable so I am really sorry for her because I wish we could have finished it.

“It’s sport – it happens – but I am really wishing her all the best.”

Author: Svar Nanan-Sen
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Emma Raducanu labelled ‘the real deal’ and compared to her tennis idol amid Wimbledon run

Former world No 1 Mats Wilander has tipped Emma Raducanu to enjoy a long and successful career at the highest levels of the game as the teenager prepares to face Ajla Tomljanovic in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Raducanu has been one of the success stories of this year’s tournament, producing some incredible tennis to maintain her Grand Slam dream and pleasing many of the fans in attendance at the All England Club in the process.

The 18-year-old stunned last year’s French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the second round of the competition before sealing a last-16 berth on Saturday with another nerveless display against Sorana Cirstea.

Raducanu slipped to a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but battled back to claim the spoils and extend her debut Grand Slam campaign by another couple of days at the very least.

She only sat her A-levels earlier this year and made her first WTA appearance last month, but has quickly established herself as a home favourite at Wimbledon and will be hoping to keep up her winning form for as long as possible.

Speaking after Raducanu’s latest victory, Wilander waxed lyrical over the Brit’s impressive mental outlook and age-defying composure despite her tender years.

The 56-year-old told Eurosport that he believes Raducanu can emerge as a top-level player in years to come, admitting that she bears many similarities with her idol and two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na.

JUST IN: Federer makes Grand Slam promise after Wimbledon win over Norrie

“Amazing scenes,” said Wilander. “She is the real deal, and I am talking about the mindset. An incredible mindset and an incredible mover.

“She played incredibly. She has a great mindset, and just the way she handled it.

“She had so many break points in that second set and somehow, like a mature tennis pro who has been on the tour for years, she handled that setback.

“She plays like her idol, Li Na. The forehand is almost an identical copy. She really is a fantastic tennis player and there is nowhere she is going to go but up. She is going to improve and improve.

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“The fact that she turned that match around, and Cirstea came back, that is such a confidence boost and such a telling point that she is here to stay.

“She moves incredibly well and she has real strength. She has literally everything. She can be a superstar.”

Raducanu will face Tomljanovic of Australia in the next round at Wimbledon after the latter overcame former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday.

The Canadian-born British player will be hoping to reach the quarter-finals with another victory over her next opponent, who has a WTA singles ranking of 117.

Speaking after her win over Cirstea on Court One, Raducanu told reporters: “I am so speechless right now.

“I didn’t know what my reaction would be, and then that just happened. I’m so, so grateful for all the support I had today.

“This is by far the biggest court I’ve played on. I think I coped quite well in the beginning, I just tried to hold my nerve.

“When I was packing to come into the bubble, my parents said: ‘Aren’t you packing too much match kit?’. I think I’m going to have to do some laundry tonight!”

Author: Archie Griggs
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Wimbledon 2021: Grand Slam tennis returns to England's grass

The oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament ends a two-year absence on Monday.

LONDON, UK — Roger Federer recalls feeling “just shocked, more than anything.”

Chris Evert found the news “devastating.”

The tennis world was shaken when the All England Club announced on April 1, 2020, that Wimbledon would be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic — the first time since World War II it was called off for any reason.

The oldest Grand Slam tennis tournament ends a two-year absence on Monday, with 50% capacity attendance at the outset and a full Centre Court of 15,000 allowed for the singles finals on July 10-11, the latest signals things are moving closer to normal.

“It’s going to be an incredible event,” said American pro John Isner, a 2018 semifinalist at Wimbledon and winner of the longest match in the sport’s history there in 2010. “You know, a lot of people say it’s the Mecca of our sport, it’s our Augusta National. … It’s going to be great to have it back. I think the fans all over the world are going to be eager to watch it.”

If so, they will have plenty of storylines to follow on the grass courts.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic tries to pull even with Rafael Nadal ( who won’t be there ) and Federer ( who will, in his last Slam before turning 40 on Aug. 8 ) at 20 major championships, the most for a man. Djokovic also hopes to add to his 2021 titles at the Australian Open and French Open to extend his bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam by a man since 1969.

Serena Williams, at age 39, seeks her 24th major singles trophy to equal the all-time mark after losing in the 2018 and 2019 Wimbledon finals. Coco Gauff, now 17, returns to the site of her big breakthrough at 15. Could there be yet another new Slam champion?

What matters most to many is simply that The Championships — as it’s known to locals — will be played after being the only Grand Slam site that remained silent during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“In my mind — and I think in a lot of players’ minds — it’s the biggest tournament in the world, and the most prestigious. It was a bitter disappointment to everybody. And it was historical,” said Evert, who won three of her 18 major singles trophies at Wimbledon. “It made you realize how bad the world was and how bad the pandemic really was.”

The French Open shifted from May-June to September-October in 2020, then was played again this year, delayed just one week. That shift left just two weeks, instead of three, between the clay of Paris and the grass of London, which could be an advantage to those most at ease on the lawns of Wimbledon, such as eight-time champion Federer or seven-time champ Williams.

“Probably, yes, for those who know how to play on grass and don’t need much time for the preparation on it, it could probably be better,” said Petra Kvitova, the Czech left-hander who won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.

The U.S. Open was played in August-September 2020, albeit without fans, and the Australian Open was delayed by three weeks in 2021.

But the All England Club, unlike groups running other majors, had cancellation insurance that paid 180 million pounds ($ 250 million), according to chairman Ian Hewitt.

“Everything happened very quickly. … We were all not sure, anymore, what was going on,” said Federer, who missed most of 2020 after two operations on his right knee. “I remember being on (ATP) Council calls and trying to understand the magnitude and (asking), ‘When is the clay going to start?’ And then it literally went, within a couple of weeks, Wimbledon was canceled.”

There are changes this time — and on the horizon.

The singles champions’ checks are reduced more than 25% to about $ 2.4 million, although the overall cut in prize money is closer to 5%.

There will be fewer fans than usual for most of the two weeks — they’ll need to prove they’ve been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 or had the illness within the preceding six months — and while the customary Middle Sunday without competition remains in effect, that will change in 2022, when the full fortnight will see matches.

Instead of renting private homes in Wimbledon Village, as some players usually do, the athletes and their entourages must stay at a designated hotel in London as part of what the tournament is calling a “minimized risk environment,” with coronavirus testing and a “track-and-trace program.”

“Obviously it’s not going to be normal. We’re not going to be staying at home. It’s going to be quite different,” said Johanna Konta, a British player who is a three-time Slam semifinalist, including at Wimbledon in 2017. “But it’s still grass. It’s still home. It’s still a home crowd. It’s still home comforts, in that sense, so I think it will just be exciting.”

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Reigning Olympic tennis gold medalist to miss Tokyo

Monica Puig became the first athlete to win gold for Puerto Rico in any sport at an Olympics with her triumph at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Reigning Olympic tennis gold medalist Monica Puig will miss the Tokyo Games and the rest of the season after having surgery on her right shoulder.

Puig, who became the first athlete to win gold for Puerto Rico in any sport at an Olympics with her triumph at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, announced in a video message posted on her Instagram account Sunday that she had a second operation to repair her rotator cuff and biceps tendon.

She said the procedure was “about a week ago.”

“It was with a heavy heart that I took this decision. Obviously my team and I are thinking long term and prolonging my career for as many years as possible and hoping to play in the Paris 2024 Olympics. And that was one of the reasons that led to this decision,” Puig said. “The second reason was obviously that nobody likes to play with pain, and the pain was just too unbearable to spend more than 10 minutes on the court. And that is something that I struggled with as I started my return to the tennis courts.”

The 27-year-old Puig has not competed on tour since a first-round loss at Roland Garros last October against 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani. That was Puig’s fourth loss in a row, including a first-round exit at the U.S. Open in September, too.

Puig also had surgery on her right elbow in December 2019.

She was unseeded at the Rio Olympics, but capped a run of upsets by beating three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the singles final. That made Puig the first woman representing Puerto Rico to win an Olympic medal of any color.

Shortly after that triumph, Puig rose to a career-high 27th in the WTA rankings. She is currently 168th.

Puig’s best showing at a major tournament was making it to the fourth round of Wimbledon as a teenager in 2013. She’s never been past the third round in 27 other Slam appearances.

She said she plans to return to action next year.

“It hasn’t been easy on me and my team, as well. … We’re already looking forward to the next step,” Puig said, “which is the rehab process, which will begin in a couple of weeks.”

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Tennis player released from custody in match-fixing case from 2020 French Open

Yana Sizikova was arrested Thursday after competing in a French Open doubles match. Prosecutors say she was not formally charged, but remains under investigation.

PARIS, France — The Russian tennis player arrested on suspicion of match-fixing at last year’s French Open was released from police custody on Friday, judicial officials told The Associated Press.

Yana Sizikova, who was arrested Thursday in Paris after competing in a French Open doubles match, was not formally charged after questioning but remains under investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The 26-year-old Sizikova denies the allegations, according to her lawyer, Frederic Belot. He told the AP that Sizikova wants to file a complaint for defamation.

The prosecutor’s office said Sizikova was arrested for “sports bribery and organized fraud for acts likely to have been committed in September 2020.”

The case was opened last October by a French police unit specializing in betting fraud and match-fixing. It has previously worked with Belgian authorities investigating suspect matches at the lower levels of professional tennis.

The French tennis federation said it could not provide further information because the investigation is ongoing.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency, which investigates match-fixing in the sport, declined to comment on the details of the case but said in a message to the AP that “there has been ongoing liaison between the ITIA and law enforcement in France.”

Speaking to the AP in a phone interview, her lawyer said Sizikova was “extremely shocked.”

“She was placed in custody like a criminal. She says she is innocent and did not want me to assist her during her questioning because she considers herself like a victim,” Belot said.

Belot said he only started representing Sizikova on Friday after he was approached by the player’s parents. He said Sizikova had contacted the ITIA when the case was opened last year to deny any wrongdoing.

The prosecutor’s office said the probe centered on suspicions about one match at Roland Garros last year. It did not specify the match. German newspaper Die Welt and French sports daily L’Equipe said at the time there were suspicious betting patterns in the first round of a women’s doubles match on Sept. 30.

On that day, Sizikova and partner Madison Brengle of the United States played on Court No. 10 against Romanian players Andreea Mitu and Patricia Maria Tig. Sizikova was broken to love serving in the fifth game of the second set, during which she double-faulted twice.

Le Parisien reported Friday that tens of thousands of euros (dollars) were bet with several operators in different countries on the Romanian players winning that game.

The newspaper said Sizikova, who is ranked 101st in doubles and 765th in singles, was arrested Thursday after losing in the first round of the doubles tournament at Roland Garros. The newspaper said authorities searched Sizikova’s hotel room.

Last year’s French Open, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, was played in late September and early October.

AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf in Rome and James Ellingworth in Dusseldorf, Germany, contributed to this report.

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French Open: Yana Sizikova arrested on suspicion of deliberately losing tennis game

Russian player Yana Sizikova has been arrested at Roland Garros on suspicion of match fixing, according to reports. The 26-year-old was arrested on Thursday evening following her first-round doubles match between her and partner Ekaterina Alexandrova. 

They had played against Ajla Tomljanovic and Storm Sanders but lost 6-1, 6-1.

According to Le Parisien, she was taken into custody in the premises of the Central Service for Races and Games of the judicial police following an eventful arrest.

Security guards tried to prevent the arrest as Sizikova was coming out of her massage session following her match. 

German newspaper Die Welt claim that Sizikova has been caught up in an investigation opened last October by the Paris prosecutor’s office for “organized gang fraud” and for “active and passive sports corruption.

JUST IN: Sir Alex Ferguson may have blocked Harry Kane to Manchester United

Tomljanovic and Sanders, who defeated Sizikova and Alexandrova, will play Elena Rybakina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round of the women’s doubles.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are all through to the third round in the men’s singles.

Federer defeated Marin Cilic in a sensational second-round match yesterday.

The Swiss won after four sets but was given a warning for taking too long to be ready between service games.

He faces German Dominik Koepfer tomorrow.

Nadal plays Brit Cameron Norrie hoping as he bids to win his fifth consecutive French Open. The Spaniard could win his 14th title at Roland Garros but has said that he is not focusing on his later round opponents ahead of facing Norrie.

35-year-old Nadal said: “I am the third, [Daniil] Medvedev the second, Novak [Djokovic] is the first, no problem with that. I am here to try my best.

“When I am the third, you know that you’re going to have the chance to be in the same part of the draw as the No 1 and the No 2.

“This time [I’m in] the part of the draw with the No 1. I just won my first match, something I’m happy with, and I try to go for the second one, that’s it. All that stuff [on facing Djokovic and Federer] doesn’t worry me now, honestly.”

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