Naomi Osaka hits a forehand winner against Caroline Garcia in their first round match at the Australian Open.
Osaka, a two-time champion in Melbourne, was competing in her first Grand Slam tournament in more than a year when she lost to Garcia 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) on Monday.
The Japanese star took a 15-month break from tennis to prioritize her mental health before Become a mother For the first time in July.
She fought hard in a tough match against 16th seed Garcia at Rod Laver Arena, but fell behind in the first set when the French player secured a break at 2-2 – the only break in the match.
The second set was decided narrowly through a tiebreak during which Garcia succeeded in clearing the ball and ended the match when Osaka's cross-court backhand hit the net.
Garcia hits a backhand shot against Osaka.
“For me, I felt like I did my best,” Osaka told reporters after the match. “It was really great to be on Rod Laver again, hearing the crowd, and how much they were reacting to the match.”
All of the seeded players at the Australian Open were desperate to avoid Osaka in the first round after her rankings dropped during her time away from the sport.
But the 30-year-old Garcia produced an assured performance against the four-time Grand Slam champion, hitting 13 aces – including two in the second set tiebreak – and 34 winners.
She will now face unseeded Polish player Magdalena Frisch in the second round.
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This was Osaka's first Grand Slam appearance since the US Open in 2022.
Before the Australian Open, Osaka celebrated her return to tennis by defeating Germany's Tamara Korbach. Then she lost to Czech star Karolina Pliskova in three sets in the second round Brisbane International Championship.
“I think I learned a lot during this journey, both on and off the court,” Osaka said. “I also think I played some really good people. It's a bit unfortunate… I guess I'll have to see how the rest of my season goes.”
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