The departure of Naomi Osaka two years ago at the French Open was shocking. She was battling mental health and competitive players. Today, getting back to a solid playing level may be her greatest focus.
The anticipation and return to tennis might have Naomi Osaka wading on shaky waters despite her heavy resume of grand slams and WTA titles. “I don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me. I don’t know the level of play…I think I have to ease into it,” the former No.
1 in the world commented on her return and possible results. The 26-year-old has had a few interruptions in her year or so of getting mentally strong again from a rigorous tour schedule and getting in form after having a baby.
The last time Osaka was on the competitive court was last September at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. She had withdrew from her 2nd round match against Beatriz Haddad Maia because of illness. “I am really sorry that I am not able to compete today,” she had explained to the media and tennis community.
She was plagued by abdominal issues, missed the grass court season because of an Achilles injury and withdrew from the opening round of the Canadian Open with back ailments. Situations were collapsing around her and she had admitted that “this year has not been the best year for me…Life is ups and downs and this year was more down than up…” Last year wasn’t good for Naomi as she fell from being ranked No.
13 to No. 48. Things continued to spiral out of control for the once top ranked WTA player. Osaka would feel the deterioration of her game and found it difficult to deal with. “It was kind of hard at first…I feel like I should be somewhere I’m obviously currently am not.” But after the birth of daughter, Shai in July of this year, she started feeling a longing to go back to a livelihood she’s missed for some time.
The love of the game along with the love of her daughter was calling her. “I definitely only know this world, the tennis world, and just being away from that for a long time it was new for me.” Naomi Osaka will have a great adjustment to make between now juggling the care of her daughter and blending into the professional tennis situation.
Many of her competitors have changed. Some are much younger than Osaka while have elevated their game level which may cause havoc in Naomi’s game strategies. The traveling also will be something new to the Japanese who has to get used to being away from home more, if she intends to expand her touring schedule.
Will she be able to bring her game level up comfortably to defend and defeat her opponents? Only time will tell. Osaka feels the urge and need to do what she’s did all her life and that’s play tennis. “I am really excited about getting back out on court and competing” she had told the media.
Osaka has chosen to return to Brisbane, one of the warm-up events in preparation foothersr the Australian Open. “I always love starting my season in Brisbane and can’t wait to return,” she said with a broad grin and thinking how she could not only make a difference in the tennis world but in herself.