Six months after giving birth to baby Shai, Naomi Osaka made her long anticipated Grand Slam return against 16th seed Caroline Garcia at the Australian Open on Monday.

Naomi Osaka Defeated by Caroline Garcia

It ended in a disappointing 6-4 7-6 (7-2) defeat, though there were positives to take from the loss. Both players produced some high-quality tennis at the Rod Laver Arena. While Osaka impressed with her powerful serve and forehand, she struggled against Garcia’s serve and didn’t take her to break point all match.

Osaka was naturally disappointed, but not too downbeat after the game. “The competitor in me is really frustrated that I’m not winning these matches, of course,” she said. “So I wouldn’t say this comeback is how I thought because I’m delusional enough to think I could have won the tournament. I think my delusion is what allows me to win the tournaments. I think I just have to keep living day by day and training hard and playing a lot more matches, and hopefully my dreams will come true.”

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, announced she was pregnant a few days before the Australian Open in 2023. She returned to the court earlier this month after giving birth to a daughter in July. “I have to tell myself ‘hey, six months ago you were pregnant’. Of course there’s a voice in my head that is saying ‘who are you to think you can come back and immediately start winning matches?'” said Osaka.  

A Disappointing First Round for Japanese Players

In other first round games in the women’s single’s competition, there were defeats for Japan’s Mai Hontama and Nao Hibino. The former was close to causing an upset against the 2021 French Open champion and world No. 10 Barbora Krejčíková of the Czech Republic. After winning the first set, she led 4-3 in the second before losing the next three games. Krejcikova then took the final set 6-3. In the men’s competition, Yosuke Watanuki, Shintaro Mochizuki and Taro Daniel all lost. 

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