MASON, Ohio — A little more than a week before she is to begin defending her United States Open title, Naomi Osaka injured her left knee and abandoned a quarterfinal at the Western & Southern Open on Friday afternoon.
In the third set of a match against Sofia Kenin, Osaka appeared to have taken control, winning six of eight games before jamming her knee as she landed on her service motion. Osaka then walked to her chair to receive medical attention, and after an evaluation, her knee was taped.
She returned to the court 10 minutes after she left, playing two more points haltingly, losing both, and then stoping to give Kenin a 6-4, 1-6, 2-0 victory.
Osaka, 21, limped into the interview room an hour after the match, with an ice pack strapped to her knee. When she reached the stairs leading to the podium, Osaka smiled wearily, then used her arms to hoist herself up.
“I mean, yeah, it sucks,” she said, “especially since I didn’t want to get injured this close to the Open,” adding that, “And now I’m kind of worried a little bit.”
Osaka said she did not yet know what sort of injury she had sustained, adding that she has a high pain tolerance that often leads her to underestimate injuries. Continuing against Kenin “wasn’t safe,” Osaka said, but she insisted she was determined to play at the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 26.
“I don’t even really think about winning the tournament; I just want to have the chance to play it, you know?” Osaka said. “I feel like this might have that 1 percent chance of me not being able to play, and that’s what’s concerning me. In the end, I’m going to play even if the doctor says ‘no.’ Probably.”
After winning the Australian Open in January, Osaka had struggled for several months, but she appeared to be rediscovering her form in recent weeks. She also reached the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week, losing a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final against Serena Williams.
Williams also has struggled with injury recently this week, retiring from the final in Toronto after four games because of back spasms and then, with the injury lingering, she withdrew from the Western & Southern Open shortly before her first match.