Naomi Osaka will come back the great player she was

The Japanese was eliminated in the 1st round of the Australian Open, but she has all she needs to compete for all the greatest milestones

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Naomi Osaka will come back the great player she was
© Cameron Spencer / Staff Getty Images Sport

Naomi Osaka's path at the Australian Open 2024 ended immediately. The Japanese tennis player, two-time champion in Australia, surrendered in two sets to the French Caroline Garcia with a score of 6-4 7-6 (2) in the 1st round of the Australian Slam, showing that she is far from her best form. A bad joke for her, considering that the Frenchwoman was then eliminated in the 2nd round by Pole Magdalena Frech in straight sets.

A disappointing result for the 26-year-old Japanese girl, who expressed her dissatisfaction with this difficult return to Melbourne in the press conference. The former WTA No.1 declared that she gave her all against a rather difficult opponent.

"I think it was a great match. For me, I felt I gave the best I could. It was very nice to be back on the Rod Laver, feeling the crowd, how much they interacted with the match. It was fun," said Osaka.

For the Japanese tennis player, it was a match in which she didn't even manage to get a break point. "The responses were very important, but I think I could have done a little more from groundstrokes. I felt like I was constantly on the back foot and very hesitant. I think it's due to the fact that I hadn't played matches in a while. I was a little overthinking in my head about where to go. It's something that will come with time. But it's a bit of a stinker at the moment," she explained.

On her schedule in the next few months. "Wim just talked to me about playing a lot more matches. I don't know if he wants to add anything. I definitely think about playing Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston and then probably a full season on clay," explained the 4-time Slam champion.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Phil Walter / Staff Getty Images Sport

Osaka finally concluded by saying she was frustrated at not having managed to get the debut she had hoped for: "I think I still feel a little disappointed. I don't know if I'm disappointed in myself. I don't think it's possible, because I feel like I couldn't have done more with the circumstances. I felt nervous, but I kept telling myself to be positive. The competitor in me is really frustrated that I can't win these matches, obviously. I think I just have to keep taking it day by day, train hard and play a lot more games, and hopefully my dreams will come true."

Before the Australian Open, Naomi spoke with great honesty and wisdom. "Yes, I thought about quitting. Immediately after Tokyo I thought about it for about a month, because I felt I no longer felt joy in tennis. Then I said to myself: I've been playing tennis since I was three years old and there are so many things that I still want to accomplish. I want Shai to see a person who has big goals and dreams. I'm learning to appreciate sport."

From her suffering due to severe depression, to the joy of motherhood that allowed her to give birth to little Shai. Naomi Osaka, despite her young age, has overcome many challenges and is ready to get back into the world of tennis a year and a half after the last time. The Japanese woman has always avoided the limelight and preferred to build her own reality.

Then came the success, the pressure increased and Osaka did not react well to the new scenarios that invaded her backyard. The 26-year-old will return to the court at the WTA 500 in Brisbane trying to bring her true personality both on and off the court.

Osaka© Cameron Spencer / Staff Getty Images Sport

"I'm nervous but happy with all the work I've done to be here. I think becoming a mother has changed my mentality. Now I'm much more open-minded and I also feel stronger.

Shai helped me a lot. I'm excited to return. I didn't wear headphones around the club! It's really nice to see everyone again. I'm nervous, I haven't played a match in a while but I'm competitive and I want to win. I won't say I've never loved tennis. I loved it. At a certain point, instead of being happy for a victory I just felt relieved.

It helped me a lot to watch other tennis players. I remember seeing some of Carlos Alcaraz training at Wimbledon. I guess in a way you go back to being a child and trying to draw inspiration from others," she said before Melbourne.

What can Naomi get out of the 2024 tennis season?

What Naomi Osaka is missing now is the physical shape of her best days. It is no coincidence that a tennis player wins 4 Majors: if she did it, it means that her tennis is still there. She has everything to win a Slam again. The only thing she needs to regain is her physical fitness.

It will take time. Serena Williams took a long time after her pregnancy, and still managed to play (and lose) 4 major finals after her come back. Naomi is much younger and, at 27, she still has all the time in the world to get back into shape. If she succeeds, her opponents will have a formidable rival to compete against.

Naomi Osaka Australian Open