Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the WTA Tour, defeating Tamara Korpatsch in her first outing since giving birth in July.
There were doubts as to whether Osaka would return to top-flight tennis after taking a break to manage mental-health issues, and subsequently having a child.
The 26-year-old indicated towards the end of last year that she would play again, and that was confirmed when she entered the Brisbane International.
The four-time Grand Slam winner made an early statement by breaking Korpatsch to love in the opening game of the contest.
The German was swept away in a 39-minute opening set, but the second was a test of Osaka’s resolve.
After holds were traded, Osaka made what felt like a decisive break in the eighth game.
However, when serving for the match in the ninth game, the Japanese star faltered and a couple of backhand errors handed a break back to her opponent.
There were more concerns in the following service game for Osaka, as she found herself 0-30 down. But she reeled off four points in a row to take the set to a tie-break.
Korpatsch earned an early mini-break and had two set points, but Osaka fended them off and clinched the win with a crisp forehand winner – to the delight of the crowd in Brisbane.
“The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter, I didn’t return as much love as I was given,” Osaka said. “I feel like that’s what I want to do in this chapter.
“I just really appreciate people coming out and knowing me and cheering for me, because I feel like there was a time I was just a little kid trying to watch my role models play. So it feels really surreal sometimes to be playing on these courts.”
Reflecting on her first match since September 2022, Osaka felt she performed to a good standard.
Osaka said: “Looking back on the match now, honestly I’m very proud of myself.
“I feel like I played at a pretty good level. I think my opponent played really well, as well.
“Honestly, all I can think of is, like, the consistent nerves that I had. So just getting through that really tough match and hopefully building on it.
“I think maybe some of my decisions weren’t the best. But I think it’s better to have harder matches because it will train me for what’s to come.”
Up next is a clash with 2021 Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova.
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