Naomi Osaka Faces First-Round Exit in Australian Open Comeback.
Naomi Osaka, the two-time Australian Open champion, made a highly anticipated return to Grand Slam tennis after a 15-month maternity leave. However, her comeback at the Australian Open ended in a first-round loss to Caroline Garcia, with a scoreline of 6-4, 7-6 (2) on Rod Laver Arena.
Osaka, 26, faced a formidable challenge against the experienced French 16th seed, known for her aggressive baseline play similar to Osaka’s style. Despite displaying the same powerful gameplay that led Osaka to four Grand Slam titles before her maternity leave, the Japanese former world No. 1 struggled with accuracy in crucial moments.
Garcia secured the first break point of the match in the fifth game, capitalizing on a double fault from Osaka. Although Osaka had opportunities to break back, including a chance at deuce in the eighth game, she faced difficulties, ultimately allowing Garcia to take the first set.
In the second set, Osaka demonstrated her prowess by winning her first three service games to love. However, Garcia’s impeccable serving and Osaka’s inability to apply pressure resulted in a tightly contested set that was decided in a tiebreaker. Garcia, serving with precision, claimed a substantial lead and sealed the victory on her first match point when Osaka committed another backhand error.
Osaka expressed her frustration in a post-match conference, stating, “The competitive in me is really frustrated that I’m not winning these matches.” Despite acknowledging the challenges, she maintained her characteristic optimism, mentioning her delusional belief in winning tournaments.
Garcia, acknowledging Osaka’s return after 15 months, praised her opponent’s performance and resilience, stating, “I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player.” She emphasized the need to be cautious of Osaka’s comeback and her impressive play just six months after giving birth.
The Australian Open marked the earliest exit for Osaka in her eight visits to the tournament and her third consecutive first-round loss in a Grand Slam. Following previous breaks for her well-being, Osaka expressed a determination to continue her journey without planning any more hiatuses, emphasizing the importance of living day by day, training hard, and playing more matches to fulfill her dreams.