Naomi Osaka has admitted that she isn’t sure what kind of shape she will be in come the beginning of the season but she has been backed to find inspiration from the successful mums on the WTA Tour.
After more than 15 months out of the game, Osaka will return to the WTA Tour at the Brisbane International with a wildcard.
Twice a former semi-finalist at the venue, Osaka’s only titles on Australian soil remain her pair of Grand Slam crowns claimed in Melbourne in 2019 and 2021.
Osaka has been training for her comeback for some time but is slightly trepidatious when it comes to tournament play and everything that comes with it.
“It’s definitely way more tournaments than I used to play. So I think some people will be happy with that. I realized that I don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me. I don’t know the level of player, and I think I have to ease into it. At the very least, I will set myself up for a very good end of the year”, said Osaka in a preview of her return.
Former WTA Tour professional and doubles partner to Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, believes the recent instances of mothers performing well on the WTA Tour will inspire Osaka.
Shriver feels that the trail blazed by the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Tatjana Maria and Elina Svitolina will make a big difference to how Osaka goes about her business.
She would concede that the background to Osaka’s extended absence from the game which was not entirely acccounted for by her pregnancy as she had announced that she would be taking another break from the game for both her mental and physical wellbeing.
Still Shriver believes that Osaka could be a player to watch Downuder come January.
“It’s fascinating. I think Osaka’s got to be very inspired by some very successful maternity ladies before her, Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Tatjana Maria, Elina Svitolina,” Shriver told the WTA.
“This one has more intrigue because of [the mental duress discussions] that led up to the maternity leave. I think she comes back strong, with the perspective that you’ve got great things to look forward to at home. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Australia.”
Osaka has only confirmed her entry in the WTA 500 Brisbane International at this stage, but her first outings in Queensland will likely inform how her January schedule runs.