Quick healer Osaka allays fitness fears ahead of Australian Open

Tennis – WTA 250 – Melbourne Summer Set – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – Jan 4, 2022 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her round of 32 match against France’s Alize Cornet REUTERS/Lauren Elliott

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka allayed concerns on Saturday over an abdominal injury that forced the Japanese former world number one to withdraw from last week’s tuning event.

The 24-year-old played her first tournament in four months in Melbourne, winning three matches in the WTA 250 event but then withdrew before the semi-finals, raising doubts about her preparations for her title defense at Melbourne Park.

“I am being treated very quickly,” Osaka told reporters with a smile. “I’m as good as I can be at the moment.

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

“But I also think athletes, we have a gig all the time. It’s kind of impossible to play Slam without feeling a thing. I just realize that and realize that you can’t be perfect all the time.”

Osaka struggled last year after withdrawing from the French Open in May after a row with tournament organizers over the required media exposure, which she said had a negative effect on her mental health.

After losing in the third round of the US Open in September, Osaka took a break from the sport.

“I was a bit nervous about how I’m going to play after I was on the break,” Osaka said, adding that she was taking a slightly different approach than her previous attempts to defend a major title.

Osaka has not gone past the fourth round in any of her three previous Grand Slam title defenses.

“I learned with every game I played. For me, that was the most important part. I hope to be able to apply the things I learned from my first tournament at the Australian Open.”

All four of Osaka’s major titles have come on hard courts and she will begin her Melbourne Park campaign against 53-ranked Colombian Camila Osorio.

In the midst of the draw, she could take on world number one and home favorite Ash Barty in the fourth round, but Osaka was determined not to advance too much.

“Please don’t tell me,” Osaka said, raising her hand to interrupt a reporter’s question before bursting into laughter. “I’m the type to not look at the lottery. I just look at the person I’m going to play.

“I was literally somewhere yesterday and someone told me about Barty. I’m just trying to get past the first turn.”

She called Osaka Party “the perfect number one”.

“She’s so consistent. She’s always so positive. She and her coach, they’re always really nice to everyone I can see. So yeah, I really like her a lot.”

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly) Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Leave a Comment