Naomi Osaka faces ‘bittersweet’ Australian Open exit
Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka expressed a “bittersweet” sentiment after her unexpected early departure from the tournament.
Naomi Osaka said Wednesday that crashing out of the Australian Open was “bittersweet” but vowed not to mope as she headed home in time to see new baby Shai crawl for the first time.
The Japanese star, who has won four Grand Slams, including two in Melbourne, stepped away from tennis in September 2022, citing mental health concerns.
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After giving birth to a girl in July, she returned for the 2024 season only to hit a roadblock at the first hurdle in the opening Grand Slam of the year on Monday.
“I remember last year I wished I had an opportunity to play again on Rod Laver Arena and this year that happened, so one of my dreams already came true,” she said on social media.
“Currently, however, my entire being is so disappointed with my result, the standards I set myself are so incredibly high.
“I try to remind myself that I was pregnant six months ago and I can’t expect amazing results from the jump — that doesn’t really do much to quell my thoughts though.”
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The rusty 26-year-old former world number one was knocked out by French 16th seed Caroline Gracia, losing steam after going toe-to-toe at the start of the match.
Despite her disappointment, Osaka said she was better able to deal with defeat now than earlier in her career.
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“Understanding the importance of time is a skill I improved on after having Shai — things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore, I don’t have time for it,” she said.
“In that same aspect I don’t feel I have time to mope after losses anymore. The world moves on and I have to continue to walk forward.”
Unlike some of the other mothers returning to the tennis circuit tour, such as Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, Osaka opted not to travel with baby Shai.
But the early exit has allowed her to get back to her child sooner than expected.
“It’s a new bittersweet feeling. So sad to leave Melbourne early but I’m so happy to go see Shai soon,” she said.
“She’s been scooting back and forth lately so I’m relieved I’ll be back home in time to see her first crawl.”
© Agence France-Presse