Naomi Osaka was left full of optimism over her return to tennis despite seeing her comeback halted by Karolina Pliskova at the Brisbane International.
Osaka was playing her first tournament since giving birth to daughter Shai in July 2023.
The match featured a combined 87 winners, with Osaka accounting for 40 of them versus just 12 unforced errors.
“So I guess these two matches that I’ve had kind of prove to me that I am doing okay, and the year is just going to get better for me.
“Even though it’s super disappointing today, I know that if I keep training and if I keep putting in the work, then I’ll eventually get to where I want to be.”
Pliskova hit 16 aces and fought back from a set down to oust Osaka 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4.
The outcome might have been different if Osaka had converted more than two of her 12 break points.
But she said: “I’m not really sure if I can be too hard on myself, if that makes sense.
“I knew going into the match, we had stats on where she serves specifically, but then she changed it up on me.
“I knew that she was going to play really well, and whenever I play her, it’s always three sets. The week is definitely shorter than I wanted it to be, but overall I think it was a great match, and I had a lot of fun.”
Osaka is a two-time champion at the Australian Open and her most recent career title came at the Grand Slam in 2021.
“I feel like I’m pretty good where I am right now,” Osaka said.
“I just relearned that – this is my opinion – but I think I have a lot of heart.
“I think when I’m playing and I’m at my best, I’m just really putting my entire soul into every point.
“So, I don’t know, it was fun to play that and rediscover that feeling again.”
Osaka also said she is trying to enjoy her career more after seeing the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova retire in recent years.
“I think I’m enjoying myself a lot more, and I also realise there’s a lot of things that aren’t in my control. I feel more aware that I’m playing the best players in the world. Both of us have an opportunity to win.
“I also just think I’ve trained so hard after giving birth that I need to enjoy these moments, and I also think in a way watching Sharapova, Serena retiring, I know that the tennis lifespan isn’t that long, so I should enjoy it while I can.”
Sabalenka wins season-opener in 58 minutes
Aryna Sabalenka won her opening match of the season in just 58 minutes as she swept past Lucia Bronzetti 6-3 6-0 in Brisbane.
The world No. 2 has now won her last 12 matches in Australia after winning Adelaide and the Australian Open last year.
“I’m super happy to play in front of fans here in Australia, they’re amazing,” she said. “
I’m not focusing on the record I’m making right now. I’m just focusing on myself and bringing my best tennis in every match I play.”
Sabalenka will face either Danielle Collins or Zhu Lin next.
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