Slam legend identifies why Naomi Osaka could have Andre Agassi-like resurgence

Todd Woodbridge explains why he thinks Osaka could absolutely return to doing big things in tennis.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Slam legend identifies why Naomi Osaka could have Andre Agassi-like resurgence
© Getty Images Sport - Kenta Harada

Australian tennis legend Todd Woodbridge says Naomi Osaka accepting to compete in a WTA 250 tournament is proof that she is indeed very serious about everything she has been saying over the last few months as the former doubles world No. 1 thinks the Japanese could have an Andre Agassi-like resurgence. 

This week, four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka is starting her clay season at a WTA 250 tournament in Rouen. For Osaka, this will be her first clay tournament since the 2022 French Open but also her sixth clay event since 2019. 

Even when four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka was at her peak, she didn't prefer to play much on clay. But when the 26-year-old was about to launch her post-pregnancy comeback, she promised she would play much more and underlined that she would be aiming to win more Grand Slams. 

So far, Osaka is 7-6 through six tournaments played and she remains without a title since the 2021 Australian Open. But she is now competing regularly, and just like she promised, she definitely to give a much bigger focus to the clay and grass seasons this year. 

Considering that Osaka has been translating her words into action so far, Woodbridge - a former 16-time Grand Slam men's doubles champion and nine-time mixed doubles champion - thinks it is safe to say that the Japanese former world No. 1 is indeed determined to return where she was once was. 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka © Getty Images Sport - Kenta Harada
 

With that being said, Woodbridge thinks we she could be an Agassi-like story. After winning three Grand Slams and reaching the world No. 1 spot, Agassi's form and results went downhill in 1997 as at one point he was ranked outside the top-100 and appeared to be done. But then, Agassi rediscovered his joy and passion for the game - returned to the top of tennis - and won five more Grand Slams before retiring. 

But before his resurgence started, Agassi as a Grand Slam champion returned to the Challenger level in 1997 and won a title there. 

Woodbridge thinks Osaka could have an Agassi-like resurgence

“I think that this is actually one of the most important decisions that she's made in her career, because it means that she effectively is willing to work and do anything to get herself back to the top of the game,” Woodbridge told the Australian Open website.

"This is an indicator for me that Naomi is deadly serious about winning more majors, because this is a commitment. She has committed to legitimately doing it (her comeback) properly.

"I would look at what she's about to do as what Andre Agassi did at a point in his career, when he went back and played Challengers. Andre had the humility to go back, and he started to win, and when you hear him talk about it, he kind of had to strip himself bare and look at himself in the mirror.

“I feel that this is that moment for Naomi.”

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka © Getty Images Sport - Scott Barbour
 

Woodbridge: Osaka is now willing to put herself in an uncomfortable position

As mentioned above, Osaka has just appeared in a couple of clay tournaments in the last few years and all of those appearances ended in early exits. But now, Osaka is set for a loaded clay schedule as she will presumably look to play in Rouen, Madrid, Rome and the French Open during the clay season. 

When it comes to grass, Osaka hasn't competed in any tournaments on that surface since 2019. When revealing that she was planning to play more on clay this year, the Japanese also revealed she was looking to do the same on grass. 

On both surfaces, Osaka has never won any titles. But now that she is willing to give a real and proper shot to both surfaces and do her best to get better on those surfaces, Woodbridge thinks good results could happen. 

“When we go back and look at her history, she avoided some of this type of tournament play early on when she could have been playing it. And I think if she's committing to this, she'll commit properly to a grass-court season," Woodbridge added.

“Grass was not something she ever looked all that comfortable on, but she's making that decision to go, OK, I'm willing to feel uncomfortable, I'm willing to put myself in this position.

“This is actually about becoming a bit more of a complete player.”

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney
 

In Rouen, Osaka will be starting against 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan. Against Trevisan, Osaka is set to play for the first time.

While Trevisan is a tricky player and has a great French Open result on her resume, she hasn't been impressive over the last few months and Osaka will certainly like her chances there.

Naomi Osaka Andre Agassi Todd Woodbridge
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