Former tennis player Pam Shriver believes that even if Naomi Osaka returns to form in 2022 she is likely to be dominant only on hard courts.
Osaka, who has struggled emotionally to cope with the stress of the pro tour in 2021, is the defending champion going into the Australian Open.
“First off, if she returns to dominance, it will still be only on a hardcourt,” Shriver told the official WTA website.
“Which begs the question: Can you be a dominant player on one surface? Look at the greats of all time, (Martina) Navratilova, (Steffi) Graf, Serena (Williams), Roger (Federer), Novak (Djokovic)– it’s been a multi-surface dominance.”
Osaka pulled out of the French Open after being fined for boycotting the mandatory press conferences. The Japanese player then pulled out of Wimbledon.
“The other big question: Can she return to her best physical and emotional condition?” added Shriver.
“If she can, yes, she can be the dominant hardcourt player. I think missing Wimbledon last year, and because it was cancelled in 2020, when Osaka returns to a grass court it will be three years since she played a match on a grass court.
“Three years away from your most insecure surface is … forever. Grass is going to be a tough go. Clay is slightly less mysterious for her, but a challenge for sure.”
All of Osaka’s for majors have come on hard courts.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also believes that Osaka needs to play and win more to truly dominate the women’s field.
“Naomi dominated the majors, particularly the hardcourts, but never the little tournaments,” the 18-time singles champion said.
“I think to leave your mark on the game, you need to dominate all the events, a la (Ash) Barty, a la Djokovic. They concentrate on majors, but you can’t just use the other tournaments as warmups.
“The less you play, the more the pressure builds up and the less feel you have for the game itself.
“You need to put in the reps. If she can do that, she has the game to blow anybody off the court because she’s quick, moves well and is strong on both wings.
“And she’s got the massive serve as well. She just needs to play more matches.”
Osaka will start 2022 with a first-round clash against Alize Cornet at the Melbourne Summer Set, an Australian Open warm-up event. It will be her first match since losing to teenager Leylah Fernandez in the third round of US Open.