She lit the fire to start the Olympics, but Naomi Osaka‘s Tokyo 2020 dreams were extinguished far too soon on Tuesday in just over an hour by Marketa Vondrousova. With a flurry of unforced errors and growing frustration, Osaka’s Olympics ended with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Vondrousova, ranked No. 42 in the world.
Osaka looked out of sorts throughout against Vondrousova, her serve failing to produce the goods (winning just 25 of 43 points on her first serve). She made 32 unforced errors compared to Vondrousova’s 10.
When asked afterward what went wrong, she responded: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”
It wasn’t meant to be like this for Osaka. Chosen to light the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony, Osaka was essentially the face of these Games, which were going to plan for the hosts, who were tied with the United States for most gold medals as a country.
Osaka took an eight-week break before the tournament and had looked so comfortable through the first two rounds with victories over Zheng Saisai and Viktorija Golubic, but then it unraveled on Tuesday as Typhoon Nepartak came hammering down on the roof of Ariake Tennis Court.
It has been a rollercoaster 2021 for the four-time Grand Slam champion. Having won the Australian Open in February, Osaka was the player to beat on the women’s tour. But when the French Open rolled around, she announced she was going to skip the tournament’s press conferences, citing her mental health.
After winning her first-round match at Roland Garros, she withdrew from the tournament and later decided not to participate at Wimbledon, focusing on bringing back the gold medal for Japan.
“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much. I think I’m glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had.”
It looked like it was all laid out perfectly for her when Ash Barty, the world No. 1, went out in the opening round of the Olympics, opening the door for Osaka to continue Japan’s gold medal run at its home Games.
By the time Osaka took the court on Tuesday, Japan was up to eight gold medals: two in skateboarding, four in judoka and one each in swimming and table tennis. Osaka dreamt of adding another.
A major upset on the tennis court.
Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova defeats Naomi Osaka in the third round. #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/HWQBj68Ewj
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 27, 2021
But that dream did not come to fruition. She dropped the first set in 24 minutes, and though she staved off three match points in the second set, her backhand sailed wide, sending Vondrousova to the quarterfinals.
“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others. I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” Osaka said. “I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”
Still, while the loss will surely hurt Osaka, she has already left a strong legacy off the court in her home country. The image of her lighting the torch was a symbol of hope for a country that has gone ahead and put on an Olympic Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She has also made an impact in ending the stigma surrounding mental health. In her self-penned piece in TIME Magazine, which came out before the Games, she spoke of wanting to make Japan’s people “proud,” and that didn’t necessarily need to be accomplished with a medal.
Hendriks to rejoin ChiSox after cancer treatment
Chicago White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks will be reinstated to the active roster on Monday, the team announced, after he missed the first two months of the season while being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The White Sox posted a video montage to their Twitter page on Sunday that featured messages from White Sox players and coaches welcoming back Hendriks.
“See you soon Southside,” Hendriks posted on Instagram, along with Monday’s date, 5-29.
Hendriks, 34, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early December and completed his final round of chemotherapy in early April. He began a rehab assignment earlier this month, appearing in six games for Triple-A Charlotte.
Hendriks threw several batting practice sessions over the past 10 days against teammates before declaring himself ready on Sunday.
“As of now I have a clean bill of health,” Hendriks said this month as he began his rehab assignment. “I’m currently in remission.”
Hendriks announced his diagnosis on Jan. 9. His return comes just shy of six months since his diagnosis.
“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I thought, ‘OK, how can I beat it?'” he said in May. “It was those days on the couch, not being able to move much (after chemo), those were the days you needed to dig deep and find that positive mental attitude.”
The White Sox bullpen has struggled in Hendriks’ absence, though they’ve been better in May after lefty Garrett Crochet returned from Tommy John surgery and righty Joe Kelly went on a scoreless streak that lasted 10 appearances. But overall Chicago has struggled through the first two months, heading into Memorial Day with a 22-33 record.
Hendriks is in the final season of a three-year, $54 million contract, with a $15 million club option for 2024.
The White Sox host the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Yanks’ Germán says he’ll probably use less rosin
NEW YORK — Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán said Sunday he probably will use less rosin on his hands when he returns from a 10-game suspension for using a foreign substance on the mound.
Germán was suspended by Major League Baseball on May 17 and will return to the Yankees’ rotation for Monday’s game in Seattle.
“You have to do something different because what I did before got me ejected from the game,” he said through an interpreter. “Probably go back to previous years before where I used it way less.”
Germán was disciplined after being ejected in the fourth inning of New York’s 6-3 win in Toronto on May 16. He retired the first nine hitters before his hands were checked by first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn as Germán headed to the mound for the fourth inning.
After the game, crew chief James Hoye said Germán had “the stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.”
Hoye’s crew also examined Germán’s hands during an April 15 start against Minnesota, when the right-hander retired his first 16 batters, but allowed him to stay in that game. Hoye had asked Germán to wash rosin off his hand and some had remained on his pinkie.
Germán said Sunday he has not gotten a direct explanation of what is the appropriate amount of rosin to use.
“As far as like a direct explanation on how much to use or not, I haven’t gotten a better explanation from MLB or the umpires,” he said. “To me, I have to keep using it, understand how much to use and keep a balance, but at the same time I’ve got to keep preparing myself to pitch and keep my routine in between starts to get me in the right shape for the next start and just keep using the rosin bag and try to keep executing pitches.”
Germán was the fourth pitcher suspended since MLB began cracking down on foreign substances in June 2021 and the second this season. New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer also served a 10-game suspension after being ejected April 19 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
In 2021, Seattle’s Hector Santiago and Arizona’s Caleb Smith served suspensions for sticky substances.
“He has to avoid that and that’s us being more vigilant and check and make sure we’re in a good spot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Germán. “We should be fine, but I think that’s the one thing about this: What is the line, there is no defined line, you can’t have sticky [substances] on your hands. So he’s got to be mindful of that.”
German is 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in nine starts this season. He is 28-24 with a 4.31 ERA in 101 career appearances (79 starts) since making his major league debut in 2017 with the Yankees.
Lewis to come off 60-day IL, rejoin Twins Monday
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have lost eight of 10 series in May, with a lineup that’s been limping along lately with a spate of injuries and too many strikeouts.
They could use a boost. Royce Lewis is on his way.
Lewis will join the Twins in Houston, where they’ll start a three-game series Monday. The first overall pick in the 2017 draft will be reinstated from the 60-day injured list and return to action exactly one year from the date of the torn ACL in his right knee that limited his major league debut to 12 games.
Manager Rocco Baldelli announced the move after a 3-0 loss to Toronto on Sunday. Outfielders Kyle Garlick and Matt Wallner will be sent down to Triple-A St. Paul, where Lewis has been playing on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Max Kepler will also be reinstated from the 10-day injured list, after missing 14 games with a strained left hamstring.
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work from Royce. I’m excited to see Royce back out on the field. He can jolt you with the enthusiasm and all of the exciting things that he can do, but he’s a good young player and he’s had a long road to get back to this point,” Baldelli said.
Lewis batted .333 with four homers and 10 RBIs with a 1.098 OPS in eight games on his rehab assignment with the Saints. Manager Toby Gardenhire delivered the news, Baldelli said.
“All the reports have him in a good place, and he’s done a good job following through on everything he’s needed to do,” Baldelli said. “Now, he’s ready.”
Lewis batted .300 with four doubles, two home runs — including a grand slam – and five RBIs in 12 games for the Twins last season. He was drafted as a shortstop, but since the arrival of Carlos Correa last year he has made the transition to third base and will likely be a fixture there for the foreseeable future.
Second baseman Jorge Polanco (strained left hamstring) and outfielder Trevor Larnach (pneumonia) are two other regulars who remain out. Polanco went through a pregame workout and is eligible to return anytime, but Baldelli said he’ll continue to be evaluated daily before a decision is made. Kyle Farmer and Edouard Julien can play second base in the meantime.
Wallner was sent back to Triple-A in a roster-management game despite reaching base eight straight times.
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