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Naomi Osaka says tennis break was ‘shorter than I anticipated’

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Ahead of the Australian Open, former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka made her 2022 debut at the Melbourne Summer Set, defeating Alize Cornet in three sets in the first round on Tuesday.

It was Osaka’s first match since September, when she lost to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez in the US Open. Following the loss, Osaka said that she would be taking a break from tennis, her second such break after stepping away following the French Open, citing her mental health.

“I actually really thought I wasn’t going to play for most of this year,” Osaka told reporters after the first round. “I’m really happy with myself that I love the sport that much because I literally said that I was unsure when I was going to play after the US Open and I’m here right now.

“In the break I was feeling like I didn’t know what my future was going to be. I’m pretty sure a lot of people can relate to that. Of course you never know what the future holds, but it was definitely an indecisive time.”

She continued, saying she is “really happy” to be in Australia and in the post-match press conference.

When talking about her goals for the upcoming season, the four-time Grand Slam winner said that she really only has one major goal that is “unrelated to results.”

“For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun,” she said. “I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could.”

Talking about what made her decide to begin training again in November, Osaka said that spending time with friends and family allowed her to decompress and begin to regain the love she had for tennis.

“It’s not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year,” she said. “I started tennis when I was 3 years old, and I never really took a break. Sometimes it’s just good to remember why you’re playing and stuff.”