‘I do feel different’: Second round loss in Brisbane no downer for Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka is remaining philosophical after her return to tennis was cut short in a second-round defeat to Karolina Pliskova at the Brisbane International.
Former world No.1 Pliskova advanced to the last 16 along with reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, who sent a reminder of her starpower in a 6-3 6-0 demolition of Lucia Bronzetti.
Osaka, however, will be left to go back to the drawing board after going down 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to Czechia’s “defending champion” Pliskova, who lifted the last tournament in Brisbane in 2020.
Four-time grand slam champion Osaka had breezed through her tournament opener against Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch on Monday, in what was her first tour match in over a year after returning from giving birth to her first child.
But Pliskova gave the Japanese superstar a sense of the tougher challenges that lay ahead on the comeback trail.
Osaka looked good value when she took the first set in 37 minutes but Pliskova was able to swing the second in her favour and then eke out victory after getting a break early in the third.
“The week is definitely shorter than I wanted it to be, but overall I think it was a great match,” Osaka said
“I feel like I’m pretty good where I am right now. Even the last time I played her, I think I played better today.
“I think I’m pretty good. Like, the court is just really… It’s her court, you know what I mean? I guess I’ll see what happens in Melbourne.”
If there was one silver lining in defeat it was the fact that Osaka’s service game looked back to its best, the two-time Australian Open champion raining down 14 aces.
Her Achilles heel, however, was clearly her ability to convert breakpoints, completing just two of a possible 12 across the three sets.
“My break points could have been better,” Osaka said.
“But I think other than that, we both played really well. It’s kind of tough because she has such a great serve.
“I’m not really sure if I can be too hard on myself, if that makes sense.”
The loss was Osaka’s first since becoming a mother last July and the 26-year-old admitted to feeling a touch of sadness for not winning for daughter Shai.
“I do feel different,” Osaka said.
“I mean, of course I feel sad, but the sadness is me being, like, ‘Aww, I wish I could have done better’ because I know I’m spending so much time away from her, so I want it to be worth it somehow.
“Also, I feel like it fuelled me a lot to do better. I think I did do really well this match. It does sting a little bit less because I know that I literally gave everything that I could.
“Yeah, it’s like a two-way type of thing.”
Pliskova will face Jelena Ostapenko in the third round after Latvia’s former French Open champion elininated Italian Camila Giorgi 6-1 6-4.
Sabalenka will meet Lin Zhu next after the Chinese ousted 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins 1-6 6-3 7-6 (9-7) in a marathon encounter.
Kazakhstan’s world No.3 Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbedon champiuon and Australian Open runner-up last year to Sabalenka, also marched on with a 6-4 6-1 win over Queensland local Olivia Gadecki.
Gadecki’s fellow Australian Daria Saville also bowed out, showing some resistance against Anastasia Potapova before falling to a 6-4 6-3 6-4 loss.