Naomi Osaka Makes Winning Return At Brisbane International After Spending Over A Year Away from Tennis | WATCH

Sam Joseph, CNN

*(CNN) — Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka made a winning return to tennis on Monday in Brisbane, Australia after spending over a year away from the sport prioritizing her mental health and then becoming a mother in July.

The four-time grand slam champion beat Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch 6-3 7-6 (11-9) in the first round of the Brisbane International to kick off the new year in style.

Osaka’s last match was at the 2022 Pan Pacific Open in Japan. Entering that tournament as defending champion, Osaka pulled out of the competition after experiencing abdominal pain.

She had been expected to participate in the 2023 Australian Open, a tournament she has won twice, but withdrew when she announced her pregnancy.

Naomi Osaka in Brisbane (Tertius Pickard-AP)
Naomi Osaka in Brisbane (Tertius Pickard-AP)

Osaka, currently unranked after not playing competitively for 15 months, hit 36 winners in the match to 21 unforced errors, per the WTA. She held Korpatsch to 13 winners in the straight-sets victory.

“The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter, I didn’t return as much love as I was given,” Osaka said after the match. “I feel like that’s what I want to do in this chapter.

“I just really appreciate people coming out and knowing me and cheering for me, because I feel like there was a time I was just a little kid trying to watch my role models play. So it feels really surreal sometimes to be playing on these courts.”

Osaka’s powerful serve helped her through the match and she did not face a break point during the opening set.

The second set was somewhat tougher as the players exchanged breaks to send the match to a tiebreak.

Osaka squandered two match points in a dramatic end to the match but sealed the win at the third time of asking with a forehand winner.

“Looking back on the match now, honestly I’m very proud of myself,” said Osaka. “I feel like I played at a pretty good level.

“I think my opponent played really well. Honestly, all I can think of is, like, the consistent nerves that I had. So just getting through that really tough match and hopefully building on it.”

The 26-year-old Osaka will play Karolína Plíšková in the second round in a match between two former world No. 1s.

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