The news on Serena Williams’ (delayed) sister was like a punch to the gut for Patrick McEnroe.
The former U.S. Men’s Davis Cup team captain believes Naomi Osaka can be the next big thing in tennis and said the American player can do “some great things” if she continues to improve.
But Anderson’s retirement left Serena feeling “a little dejected” that her sister would not be able to join her for the defense of their titles.
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“I felt a little dejected when I heard Naomi’s news, you know, last night. I like Naomi a lot,” the world No. 6 said after she dispatched fellow qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito 7-5, 6-4 in the Round of 16.
“I feel like she can be a great, great player. I think she needs some more matches, of course, but once she gets matches she will be fine.
“She has a great serve, great forehand, great touch, great spirit and is very humble. She just seems like she has a bright future ahead of her,” McEnroe added.
Serena and Osaka, now ranked outside the top 100, were scheduled to face off at Eastbourne.
“Last year I got to see a lot of her growing up and the progress she was making, just all along the way. So I’m excited for her and her career.
“To see Serena there like at the London Olympics would have been great, but Naomi is going to be just fine. I’m just so excited for her.
“I think the year she’s going to have is going to be great for her. Like I said, she will need some more matches. It would have been fun to be a part of it and I think she will be fine.”
Watch Patrick’s comments from Friday’s U.S. Open pre-match press conference:
Osaka’s decision to call off her semifinal with Serena after she was diagnosed with a blood clot, Patrick McEnroe added, would be akin to another player choosing to withdraw from an important game.
“Well, I guess it’s exactly the same as it was for Roger Federer in the U.S. Open in 2002. He withdrew because he lost, I believe, in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon the week before,” Patrick McEnroe said.
“I do think it’s a little bit different. It’s hard to see what there is to gain by playing her. I don’t know if there’s anything special about a matchup with Serena or not but I’m sure she’s playing someone else because she didn’t want to go through that trouble just to lose in straight sets. But of course she’s a great athlete, it’s going to take a lot of improvement for her to be able to face Serena,” he said.
“It’s tough for her to figure out how to progress because she’s a young player,” he added.
“She’s got a lot of potential, but her consistency and the time she’s taken to get where she is now, she’s doing well against Top 10 players, I don’t know what else she can do. She’s got a great coach, but there’s a lot of unknown. But she does appear to be a terrific, terrific player.”
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Osaka is also planning to play in the Wimbledon warm-up events, despite being diagnosed with a blood clot.
“I’m going to come back to play there,” she said.
This article originally appeared on FoxNews.com.