LONDON – Naomi Osaka's bid to win a third Grand Slam title came to a premature end on Monday when she lost to Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in the first round leaving her on the verge of tears.
The 21-year-old second-seeded Japanese became the first top-two seed to lose in the first round at Wimbledon in the women's singles since top-seeded Martina Hingis bowed out in 2001.
The loss came as a crushing blow to the US Open and Australian Open champion who cut short her post match press conference.
"Can I leave? I feel like I'm about to cry," she said.
Osaka, who was constantly staring and picking at her racket throughout the match after playing a poor point, said she had felt a weight lifted from her after losing her number one world ranking last month.
But it did not show against a talented opponent on Centre Court.
Osaka, who had complained at the French Open that the top ranking had provoked severe headaches and stress, says she has to fathom how to relax more on court after a string of unenforced errors at crucial moments undermined any hopes of a comeback against her opponent.
"The key for me was having fun, I guess learning how to have fun, kind of taking pressure off myself," she said.
"I hope I can somehow find a way to do that."
Osaka said she was at a loss as to how she would pick herself up after the defeat adding losses such as these were things she still had to learn how to absorb.
She admitted tha the fact she had lost to Putintseva at Birmingham just two weeks ago had played on her mind.
"It's very hard," she said.
Russia-born Putintseva had never been on Centre Court before and admitted to being taken aback by its circular shape, although she was far from over-awed.
"I did a good job out there and I was fighting great," said the 24-year-old. "It is amazing."
Putintseva said she was getting more accustomed to grass, although, she still feels clay is her best surface, and added having a good record against Osaka counted for nothing when they walked out onto Centre Court.
"Honestly every match is a battle I don't know what is going to happen," she said after her third win in three against the Japanese.
"I do my best, that is all I can do."AFP