Australian Open: Nostalgic Osaka seeks third crown

Naomi Osaka marks her return at the Australian Open in a first-round meeting with Caroline Garcia on Monday.

Published : Jan 14, 2024 19:24 IST , MELBOURNE - 2 MINS READ

Naomi Osaka of Japan
Naomi Osaka of Japan | Photo Credit: KELLY DEFINA

Naomi Osaka of Japan | Photo Credit: KELLY DEFINA

Memories of her two previous titles at the Australian Open have made it hard for Naomi Osaka not to dream of holding aloft the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup once again as she marks her return in a first-round meeting with Caroline Garcia on Monday.

Osaka has reached at least the third round in six of her seven appearances on Melbourne’s blue hard courts, winning the 2019 and 2021 titles.

After watching from afar last year ahead of the birth of her daughter Shai in July, Osaka has been quick to dampen talk of a fifth Grand Slam win and has played just two matches in the build-up to the year’s first Grand Slam.

READ | Wozniacki into second round after injury withdrawal

However, the 26-year-old Japanese player said she had begun to “feel the nostalgia” at Melbourne Park.

“I love the comfort of it. Going into the locker room and having the same locker as before,” she told reporters ahead of the tournament.

“I think little things like that really make me happy. Being able to hit on Rod Laver, look up at the sky and just realize, ‘I’ve been able to win twice here’. I would love to do it again.”

Asked if it was hard to temper her own expectations, Osaka said: “Definitely, it is hard because I do think of all the amazing memories that I’ve had. I also think, ‘who am I to just come back in the second tournament and expect so much from myself?’”

In her only previous meeting with 16th seed Garcia, Osaka handed the Frenchwoman a straight-sets defeat in Melbourne three years ago.

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, top-10 players Coco Gauff, Ons Jabeur and Marketa Vondrousova are also in action on Monday.

On the men’s side, world number three Daniil Medvedev will look to keep his positive momentum from 2023 rolling as he hunts a second Grand Slam title.

The Russian, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open final last year, faces French qualifier Terence Atmane in his first competitive match since the season-ending ATP Finals in November.

Greek seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, runner-up last year, wraps up the day session on Rod Laver Arena against Belgian Zizou Bergs, who replaced injured former world number six Matteo Berrettini in the draw.

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