On Wednesday, Osaka announced on social media that she would not attend news conferences during the French Open, saying they can be damaging to the mental health of players.
And then there is the world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. He has won just one of his last nine matches on clay. During a loss to Aslan Karatsev in Rome, he implored the tour supervisor to default him for a verbal obscenity, shouting: “How can I not swear? If you like to be in the mud like a dog, good for you.”
For Medvedev, his issues with clay are mental and physical.
“About clay, it’s everything,” said Medvedev, who has failed to win a match in four attempts at Roland Garros. “I don’t know how to adjust my shots that work on hard courts to make them work for clay. I’m never going to be like some Spanish players that from since they are young, they know, OK, I turn around on the forehand, I spin the ball, I play high over the net, I make the ball bounce close to the line.”
Djokovic said there was an art to mastering clay.
“We all know the clay is a slower surface in the sport,” he said. “It requires more physical energy from a player, but more mental and emotional energy as well. I think you have to train on clay more than any other surface to really get yourself comfortable playing on it.”
The one player who seems totally unfazed on every surface is the world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. She reached the semifinals at the Australian Open last year and then skipped the rest of the season, returning this year to win three tournaments — the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne and the Miami Open on hard courts and the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, on clay — and reached the final in Madrid on clay. Grass, she maintains, is still her favorite surface. The perennially positive Barty has a theory.
“Everyone has a different approach as to how they form their career,” she said. “Not playing last year, I’m as motivated, as driven, as hungry as I have ever been to challenge myself against the best in the world. Any time I do that puts a smile on my face.”