February 21, 2019 / 5:01 AM / 5 months ago

Tennis: Shy Osaka must learn to deal with limelight, says Kvitova

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Women's Singles Photo Shoot - Brighton Beach, Melbourne, Australia, January 27, 2019. Japan's Naomi Osaka poses with her trophy. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

(Reuters) - Two-times Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says Naomi Osaka’s shyness is a problem for her as she struggles to deal with the increased scrutiny in the wake of her success at the Grand Slams and her rise to the top of the world rankings.

A tearful Osaka admitted difficulty in dealing with the attention of being the world’s top-ranked woman after a shock defeat by France’s Kristina Mladenovic at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

It was the 21-year-old’s first match since her Australian Open triumph in January for the second Grand Slam title of her career. Kvitova said Osaka would have to get used to having a target on her back.

“She’s number one, Grand Slam winner, everyone just wants to beat her. That’s how players are thinking,” Kvitova, beaten by Osaka in the Melbourne final, told reporters.

“I remember when I was young, I totally had same mindset. That’s how it is ... it’s about experiences and coming to the court knowing that you are the favourite of every match. Every player on the other side wants to beat you.”

World number four Kvitova clinched her first Wimbledon title in 2011 but found it difficult to build on that success.

“It took me a while, ... three years to win another Grand Slam. I was still in the top 10. I was still fighting, but in the big stages I couldn’t do it,” Kvitova, whose career stalled after a knife attack by a home intruder in 2016, added.

“She (Osaka) is kind of a shy person, probably like me at the time. It was really difficult for me, that time, for sure. I totally understand Naomi.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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