Brisbane: Former world No 1 and new mother Naomi Osaka said on Monday she was proud to have won her first match back after a long break, admitting she had been “super nervous”.
The 26-year-old was on court at the Brisbane International for an hour and 47 minutes before finally seeing off gallant German Tamara Korpatsch 6-3, 7-6 (11/9) on Pat Rafter Arena.
“I was super nervous, but I was excited to be out there,” said Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion who stepped away from tennis in September 2022, citing mental health concerns.
“I think it’s better to have harder matches early because it will train me for what’s to come.
“I know all the opponents I play aren’t easy anyway, so it would be very ‘out there’ for me to think my first match would be a 6-1, 6-1 win.
“Looking back on the match now, honestly I’m very proud of myself. I feel like I played at a pretty good level.”
Rediscovering love for game
After giving birth to a baby girl in July, Osaka rediscovered her love of the game and decided to return for the 2024 season.
It looked like she had never been away when she broke Korpatsch to love in the opening game then broke once more to take the first set relatively comfortably.
But it was a different story in the second set as Korpatsch lifted and Osaka began to feel the pressure.
Korpatsch broke Osaka’s serve to start the second set and although the Japanese star broke straight back, she was no longer as settled against the tenacious German.
Osaka did break once more and was serving for the match at 5-4, but she was broken again and it went to a tiebreak, where both players had their chances.
Osaka squandered two match points and Korpatsch two set points before Osaka prevailed on her third opportunity with a powerful forehand down the line.
She said courtside that motherhood had changed her outlook on the game, and she had felt too isolated from fans and fellow players previously.
“The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter I didn’t return as much love as I was given,” she said.
“So I really feel like that’s what I want to do in this chapter. I just really appreciate people coming out and cheering for me.
“I would say she’s (her daughter) helped me grow up so much so quickly,” Osaka added.
“Off the court I’m more aware of people and I appreciate them a lot more, even my opponents and everything.”
Kvitova expecting first child
Former Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova said on Monday she is expecting her first child with husband and longtime coach Jiri Vanek and would miss the year’s first Grand Slam which begins in two weeks.
Twice Wimbledon champion Kvitova, 33, is not playing in the ongoing tune-up tournaments in Australia, but her name featured in the entry list for the Jan. 14-28 Melbourne Park major.
“On the first day of 2024 I wanted to wish you a happy new year and share the exciting news that Jiri and I will be welcoming a baby into our family this summer,” Kvitova said on X with pictures of the pair holding a sonogram and a onesie.
She added on Instagram that she would miss her annual trip to Australia.
“I’m looking forward to spending some time at home preparing for this exciting next chapter in our lives.” Kvitova added.
Kvitova lost the 2019 Australian Open final to Naomi Osaka, who made her comeback to the tour earlier on Monday following 15 months out during which she had her first child.