Yuki Naito of Japan, the tournament’s second and highest remaining seed, has quietly made her way to the semifinals of the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open. Naito calmly held off an aggressive No. 5 Jamie Loeb for a 6-4, 6-3 win in the quarters on Friday.
“Of course (Loeb) is a very good player, and it was not easy to finish this match,” Naito said about her 27-year-old opponent from New York. “I’m just focusing on playing matches and trying to be better every point.”
Naito, a 21-year-old from Japan, is currently ranked No. 211 on the WTA Tour and has won six ITF titles, most recently winning in Buenos Aires in 2021.
Shortly after her win, Naito was back out on the court practicing, following her motivation to meet her goal of being in the top 100 rby the end of the year. This week, she has a unique way of staying motivated.
“I wanted to go the (Harry Styles) concert last night,” Naito said. “But if I could go, that means I am out of the tournament, so my motivation was not to go.”
Throughout matches this week, Naito says she has found success through her serve but is still working on perfecting her groundstrokes.
Naito’s perspective on the game has changed since she first started playing at 7 years old.
“My mom forced me to start playing, and I didn’t like it first,” she said. “I started to play some tournaments and I started to like it and now, I’m a professional, I’m just playing tennis and I’m doing what I want. So, I think I’m living the good life.”
For now, Naito is just enjoying her time playing while her career is still young.
“I’m 21 years old, and I still have a long, long career to go,” she said. “I’m just trying to have fun on the court, not forcing myself to play. I’m just trying to have fun and we’ll see how I will do in the future.”
By: Lindsey Plotkin
Photo by Kayla Thompson