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Naomi Osaka wins her opening match on return to elite tennis at the Brisbane International

Naomi Osaka of Japan the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia on Jan. 1, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

Naomi Osaka’s first win at the elite level since becoming a mother didn’t come easily. It did come on Day 1 of the year, though. So that was two items Osaka checked off the list on January 1 for her comeback to professional tennis.

The former No. 1-ranked Osaka was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set and needed three match points before converting in the tiebreaker for a 6-3, 7-6 (9) victory over Tamara Korpatsch in the first round of the Brisbane International.

“I was super nervous the whole time,” Osaka, 26, said of her comeback match against the 28-year-old German player.

A two-time Australian and U.S. Open champion, Osaka pulled out of last year’s Australian Open in Melbourne before later revealing she was pregnant. The U.S.-based Japanese player and her partner, rapper Cordae, became parents to daughter Shai in Los Angeles in July.

Osaka had only played one game since her first-round exit at the 2022 U.S. Open. She was leading Daria Gavrilova 1-0 at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September of that year before the Australian retired from the match with injury.

Osaka said she has a renewed focus on living in the moment when it comes to her tennis.

“The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter, I didn’t return as much love as I was given,” she told the crowd at Pat Rafter Arena. “So I really feel like that’s what I want to do in this chapter.

“I just really appreciate people coming out and people knowing me and cheering for me.

Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens are also in the 64-player women’s draw at the Brisbane International, one of the key tune-up events for the Australian Open in Melbourne.

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