When Naomi Osaka lost in the first round of the ongoing Australian Open tennis, she said: “I am living day by day.”
What a positive embrace to the cruel reality of an early exit.
Her reaction was a far cry from her old self: Bitter to the max almost instantly after a loss, leading to an abrupt departure from the Tour almost a couple years back.
Unseeded Osaka losing to 16th-seeded Caroline Garcia, 6-4, 7-6, was not that bad as the match still strongly showed the Japanese’s solid grip of the game. Breaks just didn’t go her way.
Garcia warmly welcomed Osaka back.
“I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player,” Garcia said. “Fifteen months she’s been away. I’m very glad to see her back.”
The 26-year-old Osaka is a mother for the first time after the recent birth of her daughter, Shai.
“Six months after giving birth, she’s playing quite amazing already,” said Garcia.
It was only Osaka’s third match after months of dealing with mental health concerns that saw her fall to fits of depression and caused her to doubt her self-worth as well.
Before the Aussie Open, Osaka split her first two matches in the Brisbane International serving as a warm-up to the first of four Grand Slams for the year.
“The competitiveness in me is really frustrating that I’m not winning these matches, of course,” said Osaka. “So, I wouldn’t say, like, this comeback is how I thought because I’m delusional enough to think I could have won the tournament.”
Pausing to smile, she added: “I think my delusion is what allows me to win the tournaments.”
She’s pedigreed as she quickly rose from promising to sensational early on.
A four-time Grand Slam champion, Osaka won the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, and the Aussie Open in 2019 and 2021. So phenomenal was her rise to the top that she became the richest female tennis player in no time.
Could she be hurting again as her loss to Garcia marked the first time she lost in the first round in Melbourne since her Aussie Open debut in 2016?
After first-round exits at the French Open and U.S. Open in 2022, she quit.
No second surrender, though, this time, she assured.
“Hopefully, my dreams will come true again,” she said.
Dreamers are as perennial as grass.