Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has hinted may be close to a return to tennis after posting photos of herself standing on a court, holding a racket.
The Japanese star has struggled with her mental health throughout 2021 and withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon after admitting she was suffering from bouts of depression.
After returning for the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open, the 24-year-old then announced she’d take an indefinite break from the sport all together to focus on her own wellbeing.
But the former world number one teased a return recently when she stressed she has the “itch” to play tennis again.
Speaking on HBO’s ‘The Shop’, Osaka said: "I know I'm going to play again, probably soon because I kind of have that itch again.
"But it wouldn't really matter to me if I won or lost. I'd just have the joy of being back on the court."
And on Friday, the two-time Australian Open champion posted a photo on her Twitter, appearing to suggest she may well feature in Melbourne next year.
The post showed Osaka leaning against a net in tennis gear and read: “Kinda rusty but feels good to be back. I really want to say thank you everyone for all the kind messages, I really appreciate it.”
Osaka is the defending champion at the Australian Open but it’s still unclear whether January will prove too early for her to make a return.
Current world number one, Ashleigh Barty, has also taken a break from tennis. The Australian has pulled out of the upcoming WTA Finals in order to relax and recuperate ahead of next season.
It means that the season-ending tournament is guaranteed to have a first-time winner. The competition will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico and starts on November 10th.