The 2024 tennis season will be the year of the comeback.
Naomi Osaka will be back having given birth to her daughter Shai and not played since September 2022. Angelique Kerber has not played for a similar amount of time but will return in Australia after becoming a mother. Caroline Wozniacki came out of retirement in the summer and will be playing in Australia for the first time since 2020. And former US Open winner Emma Raducanu will be on tour again after undergoing surgery in the summer.
Then there’s the return of Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t played since January 2023 and had surgery in June.
Whose comeback has the best chance of success this year?
Naomi Osaka has made it clear she is not just coming back to compete.
“I definitely want to win more Grand Slams,” said the former world No. 1 in December.
Osaka has won four major titles, the most recent at the Australian Open in 2021. That is also her most recent career title, and the last tournament – aside perhaps from the 2022 Miami Open – where Osaka looked at her very best.
She has battled mental health issues over the last few years but has spoken about having a different perspective on tennis this time around.
“I’ve never been a person that’s really good at playing for myself, if that makes sense,” she said.
“So I kind of like the feeling of having the responsibility of having to take care of Shai and wanting to show her around the world. I kind of feel more like I’m playing for her.”
Coach Carlos Moya used an interesting analogy when describing Rafael Nadal’s preparations ahead of his return in 2024.
“You may think you are playing very well, but you get overtaken on the last screen and they knock you out in two minutes. It’s similar.
“You start on the first level, then the second, and you defeat the bosses, who get a little more difficult each time. This is a very similar thing to me. Things get increasingly difficult, but your level as a player increases too. I think we’re on the right path.”
Emma Raducanu has shown flashes of potential since winning the US Open in 2021.
But so far she has not been able to string together the quality or quantity of performances that she showed in New York, where she won 10 matches in a row to lift the title.
Raducanu has said she is “itching” to get back on the court even though it might take her “some tournaments to get back up to speed”.
The former British No. 1, who was under a harsh spotlight for much of the time after her US Open win, also said she thinks she will be in “a better headspace to compete now”, which could bode well for her comeback.
Caroline Wozniacki made a shock return to tennis in the summer after over three years away – and it went rather well.
She won her first match in Montreal and then in just her third tournament back made the last 16 of the US Open, beating 11th seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets and also pushing eventual champion Coco Gauff to three sets.
Wozniacki didn’t play again after the US Open but was encouraged by her showing as she prepares to return to the Australian Open, where she won her lone Grand Slam title in 2018.
Put Wozniacki down as ‘one to watch’ in Melbourne.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber hasn’t played since Wimbledon 2022.
She will make her return at the United Cup and has big ambitions for 2024.
“I don’t want to come back just to play. That would be the wrong attitude, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. That’s why I’m taking my time now to get fit,” she said in June.
“The goal is the Grand Slam tournaments, that’s what I’m working towards. And of course the 2024 Olympics in Paris.”
Alexander Zverev, who will also play for Germany at the United Cup, has said about Kerber that “when she’s fit, she’s still one of the best in the world”.
Could Kerber contend for another major title in 2024?
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