Naomi Osaka loses at Australian Open on Grand Slam comeback, Latest Tennis News - The New Paper

Naomi Osaka loses at Australian Open on Grand Slam comeback

MELBOURNE – Naomi Osaka fell at the first hurdle in her Grand Slam comeback on Jan 15, losing 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) to Caroline Garcia in the first round of the Australian Open.

A single break proved enough for the French 16th seed to win the opening set against her rusty opponent and she dominated the second set tiebreak to progress.

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 learnt in my time away.”

Garcia paid respect to her under the lights on Rod Laver Arena, saying: “I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player.

“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.”

With the match finishing at around 11.30pm, tournament director Craig Tiley said late finishes are inevitable, despite the introduction of an extra day in 2024 to help with fixture congestion.

The final match of the first day of the 15-day Australian Open on Jan 14 started at 11.41pm, after Novak Djokovic had taken four hours to win his first-round match against qualifier Dino Prizmic.

“We finished at 12.35am and we have taken the edge off having the possibility of late finishes,” Tiley told Australia’s Channel Nine.

“It’s going to happen and it will happen again, it could happen tonight or tomorrow night.”

Players, including Djokovic, backed the extension of the tournament if it resulted in fewer late finishes. But he is not an admirer of a new rule which allows fans to move in and out of the stadium during games rather than until the change of ends previously.

He told some fans who were being noisy as they moved around to “shut up” during his first-round match. He later admitted he did not know about the rule change.

Said Djokovic: “We lost quite a bit of time when they were letting people in to come to their seats, even though it was not a changeover. My opponent would wait for them to sit down... I don’t know if it’s really the best rule.” – AFP, REUTERS