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Naomi Osaka says 'it's freaking me out' to play opponents born in the 2000s

Insider
Insider
 2022-01-20

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Naomi Osaka hits a forehand at the 2022 Australian Open.
  • Naomi Osaka thinks facing younger opponents offers a unique challenge, but she's gotten used to it.
  • Still, the 24-year-old says playing "so many kids that are born in the 2000s [is] freaking me out."
  • She took on a player born in 2001 in Round 1 of the Australian Open and will face another Friday.

Naomi Osaka isn't exactly one of the seniors on the women's tennis circuit.

But these days, the 24-year-old superstar is feeling rather old relative to some of her peers.

During her post-match press conference following her first-round Australian Open victory over 20-year-old Camila Ordoso, Osaka described the difficulties of facing younger opponents as someone who's been around for several years.

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Osaka at the Australian Open.

"It's always tough to play against someone younger," Osaka said. "But honestly, it doesn't bother me as much as it used to."

"I feel like a veteran at this point on tour," she added. "There are so many kids that are born in the 2000s it's freaking me out."

Osaka — who was born two years and three months before the turn of the century — recalled playing at the Australian Open before she rose to superstardom with her 2018 US Open victory over Serena Williams.

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Osaka (left) shakes hands with Victoria Azarenka after their 2016 matchup in the third round of the Australian Open.

In 2016, the little-known Japanese hard hitter faced off against two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka at Rod Laver Arena. And even though the Belarusian former world No. 1 took down the then-18-year-old in straight sets, Osaka remembers fostering a mentality that she had nothing to lose.

"I know what it feels like to have no fear and to just go for everything you can," Osaka said. "So of course that's very dangerous, but at the same time, it's fun."

She'll be on the other side of that dynamic as she faces 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova in the third round of this year's tournament. Anisimova has been impressive thus far, besting world No. 22 Belinda Bencic in straight sets Wednesday ahead of her match against the reigning champ Friday at 7 p.m. local time, or 3 a.m. EST.

Check out Osaka's full comments on her younger foes below:

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