It’s a well-known fact that Naomi Osaka struggles on clay. Indeed, despite being a four-time Grand Slam winner, she is yet to win a title on this surface.
The 23-year-old faces Jessica Pegula tomorrow in the second round of the Italian Open but has conceded that she still has a lot of work to do to compete on this type of court.
Speaking in her press conference ahead of her opening game, Osaka said: “I feel like there are things that I have improved, but the comfortability, I'm not sure if I should be telling you this, but I'm just not that comfortable on it still.
"I'm not sure if it's because I need to play longer on it or if I just haven't grown up on it.”
Despite being seeded second for this event, Osaka was beaten in just the third round in Madrid last week by Karolína Muchová, and is not considered a favourite to lift the title in Rome.
“I'm not going to magically turn into a defensive player and I'm not magically going to start hitting my balls like three feet above the net.
"So of course I'm an aggressive player, and that's what I do. That's what helps me win. So [I] definitely wouldn't drastically change my game at all, no."
That first clay-court win may still be some way off, but Osaka is not about to panic. Although she may never be as naturally gifted on the surface as the likes of Simona Halep or Petra Kvitová, there is still time to develop.
World number one Ashleigh Barty had never reached a WTA clay-court final until 2019, but has since lifted silverware at Roland Garros and went on a 16 game win streak which ended just last week.
Osaka is a fine tennis player and while clay may not suit her –– it certainly won’t stop her.