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Naomi Osaka: Former world number one wins on return after four-month break

Japan’s Naomi Osaka made a winning comeback after four months out with victory in the first round of the Melbourne Summer Set event.

The reigning Australian Open champion, 24, took an indefinite break from tennis after a third round defeat at September’s US Open.

She was far from her best on her return but still did enough to beat France’s Alize Cornet 6-4 3-6 6-3.

Naomi Osaka want to have fun on the court

Osaka had 57 unforced errors, including eight double faults.

But she said afterwards that she was approaching 2022 with a new attitude to her game.

“I only really have one major goal this year – I want to feel like every time I step on the court I’m having fun,” she said.

“I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could.

“I’m the type of person that cared a little bit too much about the results and the ranking and stuff like that. And I just need to find a way to enjoy the game again because that’s the reason why I was playing in the first place.”

At last year’s French Open, the four-time Grand Slam winner said she would not do news conferences to protect her mental health.

She went on to pull out of the event and missed Wimbledon to take a break from tennis, having experienced anxiety and depression.

Osaka returned to play at her home Olympics in Tokyo, where she lit the flame at the opening ceremony before going on to lose in the third round and she then saw her US Open title defence ended by eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez in the third round before stepping away from the sport again.

However, she admits that her time away has helped her gain a different perspective and she has also vowed not to cry in news conferences again after she broke down in tears in Cincinnati in August.

“What probably got me ready again was talking to people,” she added. “During the off-season I just hung out with my friends and talked to my family a lot. I felt like that was a way of decompressing the pressure I had on myself.

“Then I just slowly started to regain the feeling of love that I had towards the game. It’s not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year.

“It was just like an extreme build-up, and you just happened to see it all release last year. I don’t really feel the same way. But I’m going into this year a bit more optimistic.”

Osaka won the opening set against Cornet and broke early in the second before the French world number 61 fought back to win four straight games and the set.

The former world number one claimed the first three games of the final set before serving out the win from 0-30 down and set up a meeting with Belgium’s Maryna Zanevska. –