Naomi Osaka’s return to tennis ended sooner than many expected on Friday, with American Amanda Anisimova knocking out the defending Australian Open 2022 champion.
Osaka won the first set but lost the next two 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in her first major tennis tournament since falling in the US Open third round to Canadian Leylah Fernandez on December 3. September.
“I definitely think I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about that. I’m not God. I can’t win every game, so I just have to keep that in mind and I know it would be nice to win.” the tournament, but that’s really special, and I can’t think of myself to try to win the Grand Slam at the beginning of the year every time,” Osaka said at her press conference. “For me, I feel like I grew up a lot in this match. The last game I played in New York, I think I had a completely different attitude, so I’m very happy, of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.”
The last time Osaka was on the court, Fernandez picked on her at Flushing Meadows and was openly frustrated during the match, throwing her racket onto the court and receiving a code violation for hitting a ball into the stands. After the September game, he said he needed to get away from the sport for a while. He said that winning felt more like a relief and that he felt very sad after losing.
Osaka had previously played one round at the French Open last June but withdrew from the tournament, citing her need to focus on her mental health. He did not play at Wimbledon, and did not return until the Olympics, where he lit the cauldron in his native Japan. He participated in the Summer Games, but lost in the third round.
Osaka was asked on the Friday after her loss how she prepared for the possibility of losing while out of the sport, and she responded that it has been a return to basics, in a way, for the world-class tennis star. He said that he knows that every time he plays someone, he will bring out the best in his opponent and that he has to factor that into his game.
“I also know there are days I’m going to have bad days and there are days I’m going to have great days,” Osaka said. “It’s always random and I never know, but no matter what happens to me, I just want to walk off the court knowing that I fought for every point. And today, of course, there are things that I felt I could improve on, but even with that, I had two match points and I think that’s something I can be proud of myself.”
Before the Australian Open, Osaka participated in the Melbourne Summer Set 1, a preparation tournament to help tennis players prepare for the Grand Slam event.
Osaka said her coach, Wim Fissette, thought that not playing for a while had an impact on her performance on Friday, but for her it was not the reason for the early loss.
“Wim said probably yes because I didn’t play a person who serves and returns very well, so she said if I played against people who returned as well as her before, maybe I would have been more prepared,” Osaka said. “But those are the decisions I made, so I don’t really have anything to blame. I wouldn’t really say it’s blame, but I know inside, I did the best I could.”
After the match, Osaka said she wasn’t sure when she would play again and she needs to find out if her body is ready for more matches or if she needs more practice.