'Reminds me of Rafa': Naomi Osaka's 'superstitious' act stuns fans

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Naomi Osaka (pictured right) stepping over the 'Melbourne' sign i Rod Laver Arena and (pictured left) choosing the tennis balls.
Fans noticed Naomi Osaka (pictured right) following a routine when stepping over the 'Melbourne' sign at the back of Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open. (Images: Getty Images/Eurosport)

Naomi Osaka was in good form on Day 1 of the Australian Open as she moved into the Second Round, but a quirky Rafael Nadal-like superstition caught the attention of fans.

The Japanese superstar delivered a mixed bag en route to a 6-3, 6-3 win over World No.50 Camila Osorio.

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With her ranking slipping to World No.14 after a tumultuous 2021, Osaka showed no signs of the abdominal injury that saw her withdraw from the semi-finals of a lead-up tournament 10 days ago.

However, early on during the match, fans noticed Osaka copy a Nadal-like mannerism at the back of the court.

Osaka was caught stepping over the 'Melbourne' sign behind the baseline.

However, she then seemed perturbed and retraced her steps with a bigger lunge over the sign.

While it is not unusual for tennis players, or athletes of any kind, to follow superstitions to keep them focused, many fans were taken aback having not noticed Osaka perform it before.

Nadal is the highest-profile tennis player who has become synonymous with his mannerisms on court.

Just some of the Spaniard's routines include setting up his water bottles in a specific manner and avoiding stepping on the baseline when walking past it.

Naomi Osaka advances at Australian Open

The four-time grand slam champion looked like she would make short work of Osorio, racing to a 5-0 lead in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena.

But Osorio, who hadn't played since October, skipping the warm-up tournaments in Australia, started to find her rhythm.

The 20-year-old clawed her way back to 3-5 and then had two break points to get the match back on serve.

But Osaka steadied before sending down a big serve to wrap up the first set.

Naomi Osaka (pictured) thanks the crowd during an interview at the Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka (pictured) is interviewed after winning her first round singles match against Camila Osorio at the Australian Open. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The former world No.1 then took advantage of a poor service game by Osorio to break for a 3-1 lead.

While the youngster, who is a former US Open junior champion, tried to stay in touch she was unable to peg back her rival.

Osaka herself has only played three matches since her third-round exit at the US Open, opting to take a mental break from tennis.

"I thought I played really well given the circumstances," Osaka said in an on court interview.

"I didn't really have that much information on my opponent and I thought she played amazing.

"She was fighting for every point and I think that's a really good quality so I'm sure we'll see her on this court pretty frequently."

with AAP

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