Andy Roddick has major message for Naomi Osaka amid Japanese's post-pregnancy return

Roddick issues his take on Osaka's current level.

by Dzevad Mesic
Andy Roddick has major message for Naomi Osaka amid Japanese's post-pregnancy return
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Andy Roddick thinks Naomi Osaka is "ahead of schedule" and her team has several reasons to be "thrilled" with where the four-time Grand Slam champion is just two months after launching her post-pregnancy comeback. 

Osaka, 26, played her last tournament of the 2022 season in September of that year and then missed the entire 2023 season due to pregnancy. After being out for 16 months, Osaka returned to action at the start of the 2024 season and she has played four tournaments since. 

In Australia, Osaka went 1-2 but those two defeats came in matches where she was very competitive against two very strong opponents - former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and 2022 WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcoa, respectively. After losing her last two matches in Australia and also losing to Danielle Collins in the Abu Dhabi first round, Osaka bounced back at last week's opening WTA 1000 tournament of the season in Doha, where she made the quarterfinal.

In Doha, Osaka beat Garcia in the first round and went on to reach the quarterfinal before losing to Pliskova in two tight tie-breaks. 

Looking at Osaka's tennis, 2003 US Open champion Roddick believes it is still there. If Osaka gets the reps and is able to fully regain her fitness and play a full schedule, Roddick suggests the Japanese returning to being one of the top players in the world is a real possibility. 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Francois Nel

Also, Roddick added he believes former world No. 1 Osaka's greatness is "taken for granted" at times.

Roddick on Osaka: Ahead of schedule... her greatness is taken for granted

"I actually think she's probably ahead of schedule because you can play those tough matches and actually pull a couple out pretty early in a comeback. That's kind of a big deal to have your body actually go through a couple of weeks in a row," Roddick said on the Served with Andy Roddick podcast.

"I was kind of really, really happy when she talked, pre-Australia, about, 'I'm going to play a very full schedule.' If she gets the reps and can get back, I don't question the tennis. The ball striking looked phenomenal.

"That is done through reps, and the confidence in those moments is not recreated in practice in Beverly Hills. It's just not. So for her to get back out there, I thought this was a really, really good result.

"I don't wanna undersell just because we kind of take her greatness for granted and what it was. I think if I'm on her team, I'm thrilled with where she's at."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

How Osaka feels about her tennis now?

After losing to Danielle Collins in the Abu Dhabi first round and finding herself in a three-match losing streak, Osaka looked a bit dejected and her confidence appeared to have taken a hit. But then, Osaka returned to the practice court and seven days later ousted Garcia 7-5 6-4 in the Doha first round. 

Commenting on her win after the match, Osaka described it as "a big step forward."

"I mean, I feel like I definitely made a big step forward, but also my team has kind of seen the ups and downs, and so far this year it feels a little bit more like downs," Osaka said after ending her three-match losing streak in Doha.

"I'm just really kind of glad we stuck it through and not seeing this one victory as, like, the highlight of the year. I definitely want to keep it going. It was more like a 'We're-in-it-together' type of thing."

Osaka made another interesting observation after beating Garcia in Doha as the four-time Grand Slam champion said she was already "a much better player" compared to Australia.

"Honestly I feel like I'm a much better player now. I think in Australia my returns weren't as good, and I don't feel like I was as focused as I am now," Osaka said in Doha.

"I think that definitely made a difference, especially against such a good server like she is. I feel like I didn't really have the luxury to, I guess, not focus on every point, so..."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

After beating Garcia, Osaka clinched her first back-to-back wins in her post-pregnancy comeback after beating Petra Martic 6-3 7-6 (9) in the Doha second round. Then, Osaka didn't play her round-of-16 match against Lesia Tsurenko after the Ukrainian gave the Japanese a walkover due to an injury.

In the Doha quarterfinal, Osaka met two-time Grand Slam finalist Pliskova again. Against Pliskova, Osaka played some great tennis but a couple of key points went the Czech's way and she ended up edging out the Japanese 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) in very tight two sets. 

This week, Osaka was scheduled to compete at a WTA 1000 tournament in Dubai but she opted to skip the tournament and focus on Indian Wells and Miami. When Osaka returns to action in Indian Wells, she will be full of confidence and certainly determined to make another positive result.

Andy Roddick Naomi Osaka