Naomi Osaka took to the practice court Wednesday ahead of her return to tennis at the Brisbane International.
The former world No. 1 is set to make her WTA comeback at the tournament, which begins Sunday. She spent the last year out on maternity leave, and she gave birth to her daughter Shai in July.
A two-time Australian Open and US Open champion, Osaka pulled out of the 2023 Australian Open in Melbourne before revealing her pregnancy. Osaka last competed at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September 2022.
“She’s really pumped, excited to be back in Brisbane,” tournament director Cameron Pearson said Wednesday. “She arrived Christmas morning and was out practicing a few hours later. No Christmas pudding for her, she was straight into it.”
The 26-year-old also spoke Friday about how motherhood has given her a new outlook on the game.
“Being a mum has changed my life a lot. I think it changed my perspective on a lot of things,” Osaka said. “Giving birth was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through. It’s definitely made me feel like physically I can handle a lot.
“I want to show Shai that she’s capable of everything, so that’s one of my main purposes and main reasons why I want to be back out here.”
But she also has realistic expectations about the Australian Open after having not competed in over a year.
“I’ve given myself the biggest chance to do well, but at the same time, I haven’t had any match play,” Osaka said. “I’m just embracing the fact that it’s my first tournament in a very long time. I’m just trying to have fun and do well at the same time.”
Osaka received a wild-card entry to the tournament. The field also includes reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, US Open champion Coco Gauff, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and Sloane Stephens in the 54-player women’s draw.