Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open Comeback Ends with First-Round Loss to Caroline Garcia

Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open Comeback Ends with First-Round Loss to Caroline Garcia

Naomi Osaka made her return to Grand Slam tennis after a maternity leave, encountering a familiar outcome with a first-round loss at the Australian Open on Monday. Facing Caroline Garcia on Rod Laver Arena, the two-time Australian Open champion fell 6-4, 7-6 (2) to the experienced French 16th seed.

The match against Garcia, a fellow aggressive baseliner, posed a significant challenge for Osaka, who only returned to tournament tennis two weeks ago after a 15-month hiatus following the birth of her daughter, Shai. While Osaka’s power, which led her to four Grand Slam titles, remained evident, regaining accuracy in crucial moments required time for the 26-year-old.

Garcia secured the first break point of the match in the fifth game with a double fault from Osaka, quickly converting it to take the lead. Although Osaka had an opportunity to break back in the eighth game, a routine backhand into the net thwarted her efforts. Garcia held with consecutive aces, ultimately winning the set.

While Osaka won her first three service games of the second set, Garcia’s impressive serving and Osaka’s inability to apply pressure led to a tight contest. The second set was decided in a tiebreaker, where Garcia, maintaining precision with her first serves, secured a significant lead and clinched the victory when Osaka’s backhand found the net.

Naomi Osaka's Australian Open Comeback Ends with First-Round Loss to Caroline Garcia

Reflecting on her performance, Osaka expressed frustration at not winning but acknowledged her delusion, which, she believes, contributes to her success in tournaments. Garcia commended Osaka’s return after 15 months away and emphasized the need to be cautious of her impressive play, considering the relatively short timeframe since giving birth.

Osaka joined past Australian Open champions Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki as mothers returning to play at Melbourne Park. The early exit marked Osaka’s earliest departure in eight visits to the Australian Open and her third consecutive opening-round loss in a Grand Slam, following setbacks at the French and US Opens in 2022. Osaka, not planning any breaks for now, emphasized the importance of living day by day, training hard, and playing more matches to achieve her dreams.

Naomi Osaka’s comeback to Grand Slam tennis concluded with a first-round loss against Caroline Garcia at the Australian Open. The two-time Melbourne champion, competing in her first major tournament in over a year, fell to Garcia 6-4, 7-6(7-2) on Monday.

Osaka, who took a 15-month hiatus to prioritize her mental health and became a mother in July, faced a tough challenge against the 16th-seeded Garcia on Rod Laver Arena. Despite a resilient effort, Osaka trailed in the first set when Garcia secured a crucial break at 2-2, which proved to be the only break of the match.

The second set unfolded as a closely contested battle and was ultimately decided by a tie-break. In this decisive moment, Garcia pulled ahead, sealing the victory when Osaka’s cross-court backhand found the net.

Reflecting on her performance, Osaka shared with reporters, “For me, 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.”

Despite Osaka’s lower ranking following her time away from the sport, the 30-year-old Garcia delivered a composed performance against the four-time Grand Slam champion. Garcia’s impressive display included 13 aces, two of which came in the second-set tie-break, along with 34 winners.

Garcia’s next challenge will be against unseeded Polish player Magdalena Fręch in the second round. Prior to the Australian Open, Osaka marked her return to tennis with a victory against Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch but faced a three-set loss to Czech star Karolína Plíšková in the second round at the Brisbane International tournament.

Osaka acknowledged the learning experience during her comeback journey, both on and off the court, and expressed a positive outlook despite the challenges faced. Looking ahead, she emphasized the need to assess the remainder of her season.