Naomi Osaka’s Early Exit in First Grand Slam as a Mom

Photo of Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open defeat.

In her first Grand Slam since becoming a mother, Naomi Osaka faced a defeat in the opening round of the Australian Open. The four-time major champion experienced a 6-4, 7-6(2) loss against No. 16 Carolina Garcia of France. This setback occurred during her second tournament back from maternity leave following the birth of her daughter Shai in July.

Notably, Osaka, along with Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki, who have yet to play their first-round matches, were part of several new mothers in the draw. Mary Joe Fernandez of ESPN emphasized the importance of not underestimating Naomi as a champion before the tournament.

With multiple Australian Open titles under her belt, Naomi’s recent gameplay impressed Fernandez during last week’s matches, showcasing exceptional ball striking and improved movement despite an extended absence. Fernandez noted that if Naomi successfully progresses through the early rounds, she transforms into a formidable contender, armed with powerful serves and groundstrokes.

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However, acknowledging the formidable presence of top players like Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, and Coco Gauff in the top four, advancing may pose a challenge. Nevertheless, the promising display from Naomi in the previous week instilled confidence in her potential success.

During the press conference, Osaka recognized the importance of her returns, stating, “Certainly, the returns were crucial.” However, she felt that there was room for improvement, particularly in her baseline shots. Osaka expressed a constant feeling of being on her back foot and hesitancy, attributing it to her limited match play after a period of inactivity. She admitted to overthinking and facing challenges with decision-making during the match.

While Osaka acknowledged her awareness of Garcia’s playing patterns, she also noted the unpredictability in Garcia’s serves, leading her to make adjustments in her positioning on the second serve during the second set.

Osaka openly acknowledged, “I’m also not currently the best returner.”

Garcia’s outstanding performance stood out as she successfully avoided facing any break points and delivered an impressive 13 aces. Her command on the first serve in the second set, losing only one point, earned praise from ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs, who commented, “If Caroline Garcia continues to play at this level, she’s poised to win the tournament. I mean, it’s remarkable how well she played tonight.”


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