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Naomi Osaka explained why she avoids hitting at full strength despite the temptation to smash returns

Insider
Insider
 2022-01-19

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Naomi Osaka smashes a forehand at the 2022 Australian Open.
  • Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is one of the hardest hitters in women's tennis.
  • Her serve can reach up to 125 mph, and her forehands can hit triple-digit speeds.
  • Osaka said Wednesday that she holds back her power because she wants to be "100% sure it'll go in."

Naomi Osaka is one of the most powerful competitors in women's tennis.

The right-handed 24-year-old boasts a serve that can reach speeds up to 125 miles per hour, and her forehand can register three figures on the radar.

But as she's gotten older and gained experience on the tennis circuit, the four-time Grand Slam champion has increasingly shied away from using the hardest hits in her arsenal.

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Osaka hits a backhand at the 2022 Australian Open.

"I only try to do those shots if I'm 100% sure it'll go in, so that's why I don't really do it that often," Osaka explained during her post-match press conference during the second round of the Australian Open. "And that's probably why I did it a lot when I was younger."

One particular shot from her swift 6-0, 6-4 victory over American Madison Brengle on Wednesday prompted questions about how she harnesses her power. Up three games in the first set, Osaka drilled a forehand return 130 kph — or 80.8 miles per hour — just inside the doubles alley and shallow of the baseline to put herself up four games to nil.

The absolute bullet spurred one reporter to ask Osaka if she's ever tempted to hit the ball with all her might.

"I could try it, but it probably wouldn't go in," Osaka said with a laugh.

"I don't really feel a need to attempt those shots as much right now because I'm trying to build... a better tennis IQ," she added. "I want to win the point. I want to be sure that I'm gonna win the point instead of risking it a little bit."

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Osaka winds up for a smash.

Even with some extra caution these days, Osaka registers some of the fastest shots in the pros. On Day 3 of the Australian Open, the reigning champion recorded a 147.3 kph — or 91.5 mph — a return that ranked fastest among all the women at the tournament.

Osaka will look to find the right balance between power and finesse when she takes on American Amanda Anisimova on Thursday. Should she win, Osaka could be faced with a megawatt fourth-round showdown against Ashleigh Barty — the Australian world No. 1 who won Wimbledon last year.

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