Naomi Osaka’s return to the court was a highly anticipated one and so far, she has not disappointed.
The Japanese star is currently defending her Australian Open title and won her first two matches in Melbourne with relative ease.
All eyes are currently on her and world number one Ashleigh Barty as the favourites to win the tournament.
Osaka is technically undefeated in 2022. Her exit from the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month came through injury, after she cited problems with her abdomen.
She was due to face Veronika Kudermetova in the semi-final, but the Russian was granted a walkover after the four-time Grand Slam champion was forced to withdraw.
Now back on the main stage, Osaka is once again lighting up the court and looks in strong form as she vies to win back-to-back Australian Open titles.
Her comeback is admirable, if nothing short of remarkable. During the French Open back in June, the 24-year-old made headlines after she announced she would not be attending press conferences in order to safeguard her mental health.
Osaka’s media duty boycott resulted in a $15,000 (£11,000) fine and the threat of expulsion from Roland Garros. In response, she retired from the tournament and later revealed she would be taking a break from tennis altogether in order to focus on her wellbeing.
Osaka’s openness over her struggles with depression and anxiety gained the support of thousands, including icons within the tennis community including Billie Jean King and Martina Navrátilová. Figures outside the sport such as Pink, Will Smith, and Viola Davis also backed the star and the light she was shedding on mental health.
There was a period of uncertainty where fans didn’t know whether Osaka would return to the court at all. Prior to the Melbourne Summer Set, her last appearance came at the US Open in September, where she was thwarted by eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez in the third round.
While Osaka looks in good shape to go on and reach another Australian Open final, the player herself has admitted she is not looking further than the next round.
After her latest win against USA’s Madison Brengle, the world number 14 was asked how she rated her current level of performance.
“Honestly, I’m trying not to do that,” she admitted. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I feel like if I compare myself to the past, I’ll never be satisfied. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.”
Osaka has progressed into the third round of the Australian Open and will take on world number 60 Amanda Anisimova on Friday.