Osaka is a four-time major champion and former world number one, but it’s no secret that she’s struggled on clay throughout her career.
The 24-year-old is yet to win a title on the surface and has never reached beyond the third round of the French Open.
Nadal, on the other hand, is unarguably the greatest clay-court player of all time, having won a record 13 titles at Roland-Garros.
Osaka has already stressed this season that she feels as though she can improve on clay and has now admitted that she’s tried to copy Nadal on certain things, in order to adapt her game for the surface.
Osaka reveals Nadal’s influence
Speaking in the build-up to this week’s Madrid Open, Osaka explained that she has altered a couple of things ahead of the start of her clay-court season.
“I changed a couple of things. I think you guys will be able to tell when I play, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I would say I did change a couple of things to suit myself more for clay,” Osaka said in her press conference on Wednesday.
Referring to Nadal and watching videos of the Spanish star, she said: “Yes, I think I stole one of the things that he did and I’ve been practising it recently.
“It’ll either go really good or really bad. There’s like no in between. But I think as I’ve been doing it, it’s been going pretty well.”
Osaka jokes about turning left-handed
As much as the Japanese star is trying to learn from Nadal, there is only so much she can copy.
Nadal is left-handed, while Osaka is right-handed, though the 24-year-old joked that perhaps she could make the transition.
Asked if she’d ever play left-handed, Osaka laughed and said: “Imagine.”
She added: “I’ve actually been warming up kind of left-handed but I don’t think that’s a skill that’s going to show itself anytime soon.”
Osaka watching other clay specialists
While Nadal is undeniably tennis’ most talented clay-court player, Osaka emphasised she has been taking inspiration from other players as well.
“Honestly I’ve been wanting to watch the really good clay-court players practice because I feel like I’m the type of person that learns really fast if I see it up close and honestly it’s a bit of a waste to have all these really good professional tennis players and not watch them.”
Osaka referenced teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who has recently become a top 10 player as an example of someone she wants to watch.
“I’ve kind of wanted to see [Carlos]Alcaraz, so it’d be cool to watch everyone practice.”
When is Osaka playing?
Osaka is scheduled to get her Madrid Open campaign underway on Friday and will face Anastasia Potapova in the first round.
Potapova is a former junior world number one and won her first WTA title at the Istanbul Cup earlier this month.