The Japanese No 1 looked a shadow of her usual bubbly personality as she slumped to 6-0 6-3 to a player ranked 78th in the world, Sara Sorribes Tormo, who had but one Fed Cup singles win to her name.
For me, I’m kind of dealing with some stuff. I couldn’t mentally get into the match. Honestly, it wasn’t even a match. It’s sort of my fault. Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka surrendered her AO crown in the 3rd round in Melbourne against 15-year-old Coco Gauff and, clearly, clay is not her preferred surface either, but the writing was on the wall when she lost the opening 6 points and her first 10 on serve, ending up with an astonishing 50 unforced errors at La Manga Club in Cartagena, Spain.
“For me, I’m kind of dealing with some stuff,” an emotional Osaka told media. “I couldn’t mentally get into the match.”
The former World No 1 and two-time Grand Slam winner has struggled to cope expectations and been through a series of coaches in her search for form as she has slipped down the rankings to No 10.
“Honestly, it wasn’t even a match,” Osaka added. “It’s sort of my fault.”
Carla Suarez Navarro, playing in her 16th Fed Cup tie and last at home after announcing she will retire at the end of this season, doubled Spain’s lead by then beating Misaki Doi, 6-3 6-4.
The experienced left-hander Doi offered stiffer resistance than Osaka, battling back from a break down to level the second set at 4-4, but 55th-ranked Suarez Navarro was never truly troubled and, like Osaka earlier, Doi ended with a double-fault.
While five-times champions Spain are tantalisingly close to sealing one of the 12 places for the inaugural Finals in Budapest in April, Captain Anabel Medina Garrigues is far too experienced to take anything for granted.
“2-0 doesn’t mean anything in Fed Cup,” she said. “We have to be ready for tomorrow [Saturday] because Japan have some big fighters. But, yeah, it’s nice to wake up tomorrow with a 2-0 lead.”
The defeat certainly threw a spanner in the Japan works, who had banked on Osaka delivering the win.
“Our plan was for Osaka to win the first match, but she wasn’t able to play the way she wanted,” Japan’s Fed Cup Captain Toshihisa Tsuchihashi said.
“Doi also lost in a similar way, but her opponent was great so I would like to congratulate her on that.”