Naomi Osaka: Former world number one wins first match of comeback at Brisbane International

Naomi Osaka
Osaka welcomed her daughter Shai in July 2023

New mother Naomi Osaka won the first match of her comeback by beating Tamara Korpatsch in straight sets at the Brisbane International.

The Japanese four-time Grand Slam champion, playing in her first tournament for 15 months, defeated the unseeded German 6-3 7-6 (11-9).

She will face Karolina Pliskova next.

“I’m very proud of myself,” said Osaka, 26. “I feel like I played at a pretty good level. I think my opponent played really well as well.”

Osaka moved impressively and hit the ball with familiar power in an accomplished return, but did show a few signs of nerves after opening a 5-3 lead in the second set.

She became a little ragged and had to save two set points before winning a topsy-turvy tie-break 11-9 to set up a second-round meeting with fellow former world number one Pliskova.

  • Osaka ‘more open-minded, patient and confident’ since becoming a mother

Osaka briefly acknowledged the New Year’s Day crowd as she walked out to a warm reception, with the rain falling on the roof of the Pat Rafter Arena.

Currently unranked, Osaka made the perfect start and broke Korpatsch to love with some crisp ball striking and a couple of powerful winners.

The world number 84 offered some solid resistance after that, but Osaka broke again to take her second set point with a mighty forehand winner.

The match threatened to turn early in the second set – Osaka made a tentative start after both players returned from the bathroom and she conceded serve with a double fault.

But she restored parity immediately with some thumping winners and moved to the brink of victory by breaking the Korpatsch serve for a 5-3 lead.

It can often prove difficult to close out matches after such a long break from competition, and so it proved as Osaka played a loose service game to concede the advantage.

Korpatsch was growing in confidence and earned two set points. The second, on her own serve, was saved by a powerful Osaka backhand and the Japanese player was then able to get over the line on her own serve.

“She returned pretty well towards the end of the second set. That kind of threw me off a little bit,” said Osaka.

“I just feel like I was nervous so I wasn’t able to close out points the way I wanted to. I think I have to expect that from the first match of the year.”

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