Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 9 of the 2021 US Open.
Lost in all the hoopla of Leyah Fernandez’s triumph was Naomi Osaka’s heartbreak.
After her third round loss against the Canadian by the final score of 7-5, 6-7(2) and 4-6, the 23-year-old Japanese was as candid as ever in her press conference. “I feel like for me, recently, when I win I don’t feel happy; I feel like a relief,” she said. “And when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal.”
Indeed, that doesn’t feel a whole lot great nor normal. Osaka left the most devastating for last. She said, “I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while.”
We’ll use our space here today to tell Osaka directly—because, you know, she totally will read this—to please take all the time that she needs. And not only that, but to come back to tennis only if and when she wants to. And if she doesn’t ever feel like it, then to not come back.
What’s the problem?
It’s been a whirlwind past few months for the Japanese. Some of the highlights, in case you were living under a rock and missed them, include deciding that she would forego all press conference at Roland-Garros, being fined for it and threatened with disqualification from all four Grand Slam representatives, losing in the second round at the French Open, pulling out of Wimbledon to focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, lighting the Olympic flame in her home country Olympics, losing in the third round in Tokyo, then losing in the fourth round at the Western & Southern Open before, mercifully, bowing out in the US Open third round.
Somehow through it all, Netflix also made a documentary series about her, she made the Vogue Hong Kong cover, Sports Illustrated swimsuit series cover and Women’s Health cover, and also worked on a design with Levi’s.
This would be a lot for anyone, let alone a 23-year-old tennis champion. It’s also indicative of someone seemingly looking to fill their time doing things other than their profession. Read the above quote again, then look at all that she has done: it’s pretty obvious that win or lose, tennis doesn’t provide her joy.
And you know that? That’s totally fine. She shouldn’t feel like she owes us anything because she absolutely does not. The only person Osaka owes anything to is herself. And the only thing she owes herself is to make the best decisions that provide her joy and happiness.
Nothing else matters.
Day 9 preview
We’ll do things a little different now that we’ve reached the quarterfinals of this year’s final Grand Slam. In each case, we’ll give you a short analysis of the match-up as well as our pick on who we think will emerge victorious. As usual, find the entire day 10 schedule right here.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Botic van de Zandschulp vs Daniil Medvedev  (First match of the day)
Look, we absolutely love the story of qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp’s sudden and unexpected run to the US Open quarterfinals but let’s be real here. The Dutch player is a bit like lamb thrown to the slaughter in this matchup against Daniil Medvedev. The question isn’t so much whether he’ll win the match as much as whether he’ll win a set. The Russian supervillain gets the win in four sets.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Leylah Fernandez vs Elina Svitolina  (Second match of the day)
Can the Cinderella run continue for the teenage Canadian? After defeating two former Grand Slam champions, Leylah Fernandez now merely has to defeat a former US Open semifinalist. But you wouldn’t know Elina Svitolina is the easiest of Fernandez’s previous three opponents given how well she’s played in New York: she’s yet to drop a set and we don’t see this changing. The Ukrainian Svitolina gets the win in two sets.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Barbora Krejcikova  vs Aryna Sabalenka  (First match of the evening)
You know who’s been secretly having great Grand Slam 2021 seasons? Both players in this match. Barbora Krejcikova irked Garbine Muguruza in the previous round, proving that controversies about in-match breaks aren’t confined strictly to Stefanos Tsitsipas, but she earned her presence in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka could make a second Grand Slam semifinal in a row if she wins this match. Has she turned a corner and started to earn results worthy of her immense talent, potential and high seeding? Let’s hope so. Sabalenka wins in three sets.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Carlos Alcaraz vs Felix Auger-Aliassime  (Second match of the evening)
Ready for a rowdy and absolutely electric crowd? Arthur Ashe Stadium at night with the mercurial Felix Auger-Aliassime and boisterous Carlos Alcaraz? Sign us up for plenty of matches like this one over the next decade. We’ll do our patriotic duty here and give the Canadian the win. FAA in five sets.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG