No regrets as Osaka loses at Australian Open on Grand Slam comeback

After giving birth to a baby girl in July, Osaka decided to return for the 2024 season


  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Naomi Osaka walks off the court after losing against Caroline Garcia. — AFP
Naomi Osaka walks off the court after losing against Caroline Garcia. — AFP

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2024, 6:08 PM

Last updated: Mon 15 Jan 2024, 6:09 PM

Naomi Osaka said she had no regrets and had done "the best that I could possibly do" after her Grand Slam comeback came to an abrupt halt at the Australian Open on Monday.

A single break proved enough for French 16th seed Caroline Gracia to win the opening set against her rusty opponent before dominating a second set tie-break to win 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) in the first round.

Japanese star Osaka, who has won four Grand Slams, stepped away from tennis in September 2022, citing mental health concerns.

After giving birth to a baby girl, Shai, in July, she decided to return for the 2024 season.

"I felt like I did the best that I could possibly do. It was just really nice to be on Rod Laver again, hear the audience, how much they interacted with the match. That was fun," she said.

"Of course I have to tell myself, 'Hey, like six months ago you were pregnant', stuff like that. Of course, there's a voice in my head that is, 'Who are you to think you can come back and immediately start winning matches?'

"I don't know. I kind of always expect myself to stand a chance anyways. So I guess just being nicer to myself is like a key thing that I learned in my time away."

Garcia paid respect to her defeated opponent after victory under the lights on Rod Laver Arena.

"I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player," she said.

"She's been through a lot, but I'm just very glad to see her back and I hope she can enjoy the tennis now and have fun out there. She's a great girl.

"I mean, six months after giving birth she is playing quite amazing already, so we have to watch out."

Osaka's only competitive tennis before the Australian Open came at this month's Brisbane International, where she lost in the second round to Karolina Pliskova.

The two-time Australian Open champion went toe-to-toe with her French opponent at the start of the match on Monday.

But she double-faulted in the fifth game to hand Garcia a break point and then dumped a forehand into the net to surrender her serve.

The 26-year-old, who has tumbled to 831st in the world rankings, dug deep in her next service game to stay fighting in the set.

But the single break ultimately proved enough for Garcia.

Both players were solid on serve in the second set, with neither able to force the crucial breakthrough so it went to a tie-break.

Osaka faltered on her serve to slip to 3-2 and Garcia won all of the remaining points to seal the match, leaping for joy.

"I don't regret anything," said Osaka of her comeback.

"I think I've learned a lot during this trip, both on the court and off the court. Also I just played some really good people."

More news from Sports