Naomi Osaka has touched down in Australia ahead of her return to the tennis court.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has been on a break from the court since crashing out of the US Open in the third round.
Osaka revealed winning no longer left her feeling happy, and losing left her feeling “very sad”. As a result, she put her mental health first, and stepped away from tennis.
The 24-year-old had already skipped both the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year. As a result of her absence, she has slipped in the world standings from number two to 13.
Osaka is now planning to defend her Australian Open title in Melbourne, and will return to the court next week as her preparations ramp up.
Melbourne Summer Set
Osaka will make her first appearance in four months at the Melbourne Summer Set, which will run from January 3rd to 9th.
The WTA 250 event is split into two tournaments, and boasts a star-studded line-up. Osaka could come up against top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu and former world number one Simona Halep.
Jessica Pegula, Elise Mertens and Sara Sorribes Tormo are also set to play.
With the event taking place at the Rod Laver Arena, the same venue for the Australian Open, Osaka will have the best possible preparation for next month’s Grand Slam.
Although Osaka will have already made her return to court by the time the Australian Open rolls around, the Grand Slam is a far bigger stage than the Melbourne Summer Set.
As a result, all eyes will be on the Japanese star as she begins her Australian Open title defence.
She is the only one of last year’s semi-finalists to enter the 2022 draw – Serena Williams, Jennifer Brady and Karolína Muchová have all withdrawn with injury.
The field is still stacked with talent, however, and home favourite Ashleigh Barty will be considered the player to beat. The world number one and two-time Grand Slam winner is yet to triumph at the Australian Open, reaching the semi-final in 2020.
Despite her prolonged break from the court, Osaka will still be tipped to go far in the tournament, which begins on January 17th and ends on January 30th.
Is Naomi Osaka ready for her return?
Photos and videos of Osaka on social media depict the player as excited, relaxed and happy.
She has shared several clips of her training for the Australian Open, and upon her arrival at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, posted a photo of her on the main court with a number of emojis, including a smiling face.
Having spoken about having “the itch” for tennis again, Osaka appears to be in a good headspace, and her success at the Australian Open in the past is likely to give her a lot of confidence.
Even if she fails to clinch a third Australian Open title, a good run to the latter stages of the tournament should give Osaka the perfect springboard for the remainder of 2022.