Naomi Osaka admitted she felt there was extra scrutiny on her following a surprise defeat by France’s Kristina Mladenovic in the Dubai Tennis Championships second round.
The Japanese ace, winner of the last two Grand Slams, announced last week that she had split from her coach, Sascha Bajin.
Having picked up a bye in round one, the Dubai appearance was her first since that news became public and the Australian and US Open champion conceded she felt extra pressure.
The 21-year-old was beaten 6-3 6-3 in just an hour and six minutes against a player who had not won a match this year before the tournament.
Osaka is hoping that her coach-split news will soon fall down the pecking order. Asked if she could block out reaction to the news, she said: “I couldn’t. This match is the result of that.”
“I’m pretty sure as time goes on you guys will stop talking about it. For now, it’s like the biggest tennis news, I guess. It’s a little bit hard because I feel like people are staring at me, and not like in a good way.”
In a topsy-turvy encounter, the pair traded no less than six breaks of service before wold number 67 Mladenovic held out to win. She now moves on to face Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had to recover from a set down to beat fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4 in taking her spot in the last-16.
Angelique Kerber, Viktoria Kuzmova and American Sofia Kenin were amongst the others to progress in Dubai.