Naomi Osaka’s comeback cut short with a first-round defeat at the Australian Open.

In a challenging comeback, Naomi Osaka faced a first-round defeat at the Australian Open on Monday, losing to Caroline Garcia 6-4, 7-6 (2). Osaka, who made her return to Grand Slam tennis after a 15-month maternity leave, couldn’t overpower the French 16th seed Garcia, an aggressive baseliner.

The match marked Osaka’s return to the tennis circuit, only two weeks after ending her hiatus. The 26-year-old, a two-time Australian Open champion and winner of four Grand Slam titles, still displayed her signature power. However, her precision, particularly in critical moments, seemed to need more time to fully return.

“The competitive in me is really frustrated that I’m not winning these matches, of course,” Osaka said post-match, via ESPN. “So I wouldn’t say, like, this comeback is how I thought because I’m delusional enough to think I could have won the tournament.”

“I think my delusion is what allows me to win the tournaments,” she added humorously.

Garcia, 30, took the lead in the match by converting a break point in the fifth game. Despite Osaka’s efforts, including winning her first three service games in the second set to love, Garcia’s serving prevented any significant pressure from Osaka.

This match stood in stark contrast to their previous encounter at Melbourne Park in 2021, where Osaka triumphed over Garcia on her way to victory.

“I have a lot of respect for Naomi as a person and as a player — 15 months she’s been away,” Garcia said. “I’m very glad to see her back. Six months after giving birth, she’s playing quite amazing already. We have to watch out.”

Osaka’s early exit is her third consecutive opening-round loss in Grand Slams, following the French and US Opens in 2022. Despite this setback, Osaka remains determined to continue without breaks, focusing on training and more match play. She joins fellow champions Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki in returning to Melbourne Park as mothers.

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