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Naomi Osaka has crashed out of the Olympic Games after a stunning upset defeat that has left the tennis world in disbelief.
The Japanese star - who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony - was favourite to claim gold in Tokyo after the exits of fellow top seeds Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka.
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However, Osaka joined her heavyweight rivals on the Olympics scrapheap after being stunned in straight sets by the Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.
Vondrousova - a former French Open finalist - sent Osaka packing from her home Games after a 6-1, 6-4 win in the third round of the Tokyo tournament.
The second-ranked Osaka, who was born in Japan and grew up in the United States, struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes.
The 42nd-ranked Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew Osaka out of her comfort zone.
Osaka won her opening two matches in straight sets following a two-month mental-health break.
But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.
The four-time major winner - arguably host nation Japan's most popular star - just couldn't find her rhythm as her Olympic dream came to a sad end.
The 23-year-old's upset loss was met with widespread shock and disappointment from fans on social media.
Stunned to see Naomi Osaka take the L
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) July 27, 2021
@naomiosaka losing today makes me so sad especially after all that she has gone through lately. But that's the brutality of professional sports. Can't help but feel for her. Kudos to the chez player though for putting up a solid performance without any nerves.
— Akhyansu Pattnaik (@akhyansu13) July 27, 2021
Oh wow. The most shocking upset in perhaps the entire #Olympics just happened. Credit where credit is due to Vondrousova who took frontrunner Naomi Osaka out in straight sets. Wide open draw now.
— Laura Hockridge 🌻 (@Laurasenio) July 27, 2021
— Scott Smith (@scotty2smithy) July 27, 2021
The person who lit the caldron at opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics just lost in third round of the tennis tournament. Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova, No. 41 in the world, beat Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-4.
— Mark Zeigler (@sdutzeigler) July 27, 2021
Something was off… 32 unforced errors and only 1 ace isn’t what you expect to see from the world #2.
Hated to see @naomiosaka take that L like that but Vondrousova played a smart match. #Tennis #Olympics #Tokyo2020
— Han Ma (@han_ma) July 27, 2021
— Biola Solace-Chukwu (@Beeorlicious) July 27, 2021
— Pierre Noujaim (@TheNoujFOX9) July 27, 2021
Players normally walk through the media mixed zone outside of the stadium to reach the locker room and can decide if they want to speak to reporters.
Naomi Osaka took a different exit out of the stadium and was walking away from the courts. She’s not coming back.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) July 27, 2021
Errors cost Naomi Osaka dearly
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, struggled in an error-strewn display under the centre court roof at Ariake Tennis Park and was knocked out in 68 minutes.
She made a dreadful start by dropping serve in the opening game. The second seed was broken twice more as 2019 French Open runner-up Vondrousova raced away with the first set.
Osaka broke in the second set but relinquished the early advantage with a double fault that allowed Vondrousova to level at two games apiece.
The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner grappled with inconsistency, and even when given a sniff of regaining the initiative she had no response to Vondrousova's array of crafty drop shots.
Osaka saved two match points as she served to stay alive at 4-5 but Vondrousova converted at the third time of asking as the Japanese star smacked a backhand wide.
The defeat comes after a turbulent few months for Osaka, who first refused to attend press conferences at the French Open and then said she was taking time out from tennis as she battled depression and anxiety.
She missed Wimbledon but returned for the Olympic tournament and had seemed back on her game in the early rounds in Tokyo.
Vondrousova, ranked 42nd, will go on to face Spain's Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.
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