Naomi Osaka has made headlines for her staunch approach to protecting her mental health.
Now that the defending champion is back in competition at the Australian Open, she showed resilience with her win in the opening round over Camila Osorio on Monday.
Naomi Osaka said what she said and I do what?? STANNNNN! It’s the “idgaf anymore” for me. Such a great place to be. pic.twitter.com/LdzCLy2y52
— Serving It Up (@Serving_It_Up) January 15, 2022
Osaka Is Back
Osaka jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Osorio, the 2019 US Open junior champion, in only seven minutes of the first set.
On Monday, Osaka turned in sets of 6-3, 6-3 at the Australian Open while showcasing a little-known fact about her playing behavior: it is affected by superstitions.
Osaka would not step on the “Melbourne” signage on the tennis court, hopping over it and even retracing her steps if she touched it even by accident.
“Every time I’ve come here, I really don’t like stepping on the lines or the Melbourne logo in the back,” Osaka told reporters after the victory. “I’m not really sure why that developed. I would say that most athletes have very strong superstitions. It could be one thing, it could be two things. For me it’s definitely the lines and the logo.”
💙💕🧡🦋 nice to be back pic.twitter.com/aKmAzPoceb
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 17, 2022
This is only Osaka’s second tournament since leaving the U.S. Open in tears back in September following her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez.
Eventually, Osorio hit her stride, making the match competitive, but Osaka kept her generalmanship throughout. The four-time major winner Osaka had an 83 percentage win percentage on the first serve.
“She was fighting for every point, and I think that’s a really good quality, so I’m sure we’ll see her on this court pretty frequently,” Osaka said of her opponent after the match.
Osaka appeared like she would make quick work of Osorio as she raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena.
— Mame-Fatou Niang (@MameFatouNiang) January 12, 2022
The Veterans’ Return?
On Wednesday, Osaka’s next challenge is American Madison Brengle in the second round.
Meanwhile, as Osaka attempts to regain her status at the top of tennis, Serena Williams dropped out of the WTA Top 50.
The 40-year-old Williams played in only six tournaments in 2021. She hasn’t played in any games since tearfully leaving Wimbledon in the first round with a leg injury.
However, Serena is still on the hunt to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record. Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam champion.
2021's Highest-Paid Female Athletes, per @forbes:
1️⃣ Naomi Osaka, $57.3M
2️⃣ Serena Williams, $46M
3️⃣ Venus Williams, $11.3M
4️⃣ Simone Biles, $10M
5️⃣ G. Muguruza, $8.8M
6️⃣ Jin Young Ko, $7.5M
7️⃣ P.V. Sindhu, $7.2M
8️⃣ Ashleigh Barty, $6.9M
9️⃣ N. Korda, $6M
🔟 Candace Parker, $5.7M pic.twitter.com/9ZHQvIcy37
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) January 14, 2022
Tennis By Numbers
Currently, Williams has dropped 12 places in the rankings. Naomi Osaka is No. 14, and Coco Gauff is No. 16.
Venus Williams announced that she would not play in the Australian Open early this year, marking the first time since 1997 that the Happy Slam will be without both Venus and Serena.
Serena revealed back in December 2021 that she was still dealing with an injury to her right hamstring, precluding her from competing in the 2022 Aussie Open.
No that wasn't right. Sigh, gotta do it again.
— Tennis GIFs 🎾🎥 (@tennis_gifs) January 17, 2022
Will The Williams Sisters Come Back?
Venus, who has only missed three Australian Opens since her 1998 debut, played less than ten tournaments in 2021. Her last match was at Chicago’s WTA 250 event in August. Currently, Venus’ ranking dropped to No. 318, which would have required a wild card for her to gain entry into the Australian Open.
Osaka represents the new generation coming into its own, while the Williams sisters look for one more glorious moment before officially leaving the game.
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