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Naomi Osaka upbeat after Australian Open exit

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15: Naomi Osaka of Japan in action against Caroline Garcia of France in the first round on Day 2 of the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open return ended in the first round, with the former world No. 1 suffering a straight-set loss to Carolina Garcia.

Despite the loss, the four-time Grand Slam champion remained upbeat.

“I felt like I did the best that I could possibly do. It was just really nice to be on Rod Laver again, hear the audience, how much they interacted with the match,” Osaka said. “I have to tell myself, ‘Hey, like six months ago you were pregnant,’ stuff like that. Of course, there’s a voice in my head that is, ‘Who are you to think you can come back and immediately start winning matches?’”

“I’ve taken a lot of breaks throughout the years … I think this one was the one that finally clicked in my head,” Osaka continued. “I think I realized, like, being an athlete, that time is really precious. I never took that for granted before [but] I was young and I felt like I could kind of roll back into it whenever I needed to.

“I guess after having Shai, kind of going through the struggle of trying to get myself back to where I want to be, it was incredibly tough. I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset.”

Osaka made her return 15 months after giving birth to her daughter last July, and the Australian Open first round was just her third match of the season.

And while the Australian Open didn’t go exactly as planned, she’s still excited for the rest of the season.

“These past couple weeks I think, for me, I’m grateful for them,” Osaka said. “I have a team that’s really amazing and I’ve made a lot of different memories with them in Australia.

“Of course, I don’t regret anything. I think I’ve learned a lot during this trip, both on the court and off the court. Also I think I just played some really good people. It’s a little unfortunate.”

Now, Osaka turns to getting more matches under her belt. She said in Melbourne that she’s thinking of playing in Dubai, at Indian Wells, in Miami and Charleston before “probably” a full clay season.