Elite Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka served up a smashing start to 2024 by winning her first match at the Brisbane International tournament in Australia. Her New Year’s Day first-round victory over Tamara Korspatsch marks her first time competing in more than a year.
Although she was beaten in the next round by Czechoslovakian player Karolína Plíšková, it was a close match that did not diminish the fact that Osaka has returned in a strong and decisive way. The BBC reports that Osaka’s return performances were powerful and consistent.
The 26-year-old has been sharing several updates on her personal social media accounts leading up to the Jan. 1 match. In a Dec. 15 post on X (formerly Twitter), Osaka thanked fans for supporting her over the years and during her absence from her beloved sport.
— NaomiOsakaå¤§åãªãã¿ (@naomiosaka) December 15, 2023
“Thank you for believing in me and thank you for putting up with me … thank you for allowing me to grow up on my own time and thank you for showing me a ton of patience,” she wrote. “Very honored to be going onto chapter 2 of this tennis journey together and I’m so excited to see you guys next year.”
According to CNN, Osaka’s last match was in Japan at the 2022 Pan Pacific Open in September. However, she did not complete that tournament due to abdominal issues. Then, after signing up to participate in the 2023 Australian Open, she withdrew and announced her pregnancy shortly after. In July 2023, she delivered a healthy baby girl, Shai.
Osaka credited her role as a new mother with helping her mature and inspiring her desire to return to world-class tennis.
“For me, I love it a lot because … in a way I would say (Shai) has helped me grow up so much so quickly,” she told CBS News. “Off the court, I’m more aware of people and I appreciate them a lot more — even my opponents. On the court it’s just helping me be strong and staying in the moment more.”
On the day of her match, she shared a photo of herself on the court with the simple caption, “Back at it.”
back at it pic.twitter.com/zajHKIk0M6
— NaomiOsakaå¤§åãªãã¿ (@naomiosaka) January 1, 2024
The four-time Grand Slam tennis champion made headlines during the 2021 French Open when she refused to attend press conferences following her matches and was fined $15,000. Osaka pulled out of the tournament the next day, saying she wanted to focus on her mental health.
Now, three years later, Osaka told reporters she has a new appreciation for the game.
“I think in the time I had away, I appreciated the sport a lot more,” she said in The Japan Times. “I think definitely becoming a mom changed my mindset a lot. I think I’m a lot more open-minded, a lot more patient, but also I feel a lot stronger physically.”
She also says she has a specific goal for her sport going forward.
“The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter, I didn’t return as much love as I was given,” she told CNN. “I feel like that’s what I want to do in this chapter.”
Osaka is now headed for Melbourne to play charity matches in the lead-up to the Australian Open, which she has won twice.
Naomi Osaka wins first match in her return to tennis following maternity leave originally appeared on Simplemost.com, helping make the most out of life.