Melbourne: Australian Open defending champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday brushed off fears of an abdominal injury that forced the former Japan world number one to pull out of a tune-up competition last week.
Playing his first tournament in four months in Melbourne, the 24-year-old won three matches at the WTA 250 event, but then withdrew before his semi-final, casting doubts on his preparations for his title defense at Melbourne Park.
“I recover very quickly,” Osaka told reporters with a smile. “I am as good as I can be in this present moment.
“But I also think athletes, we have niggles all the time. It’s impossible to play slams without feeling something. I just know that and I know you can’t be perfect all the time.”
Osaka struggled for form after withdrawing from the French Open in May last year, following a dispute with tournament organizers over the required media presence, which they said had a negative impact on her mental health. Was.
After losing in the third round of the US Open in September, Osaka took a break from the game.
“I was a little nervous about how I would play after being on the break,” Osaka said, taking a slightly different approach from her previous attempts at a major title defense.
Osaka did not advance past the fourth round in any of her three previous Grand Slam titles.
“I learned with every match I played. For me, that was the most important part. Hopefully I’m able to apply what I learned from the first tournament at the Australian Open.”
All four of Osaka’s major titles have come on hardcourt and she will open her Melbourne Park campaign against 53rd-ranked Colombian Camila Osorio.
Deep into the draw, she could face world number one and home favorite Ash Barty in the fourth round, but Osaka was determined not to speak further.
“Please don’t tell me,” Osaka said, raising her hand to interrupt a reporter’s question before bursting into laughter. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t look at the draw. I only look at the person I’m going to play.
“I was literally out somewhere yesterday and someone told me about Barty. I’m just trying to get past the first round.”
Osaka described Barty as “the ideal number one”.
“She’s so consistent. She’s always so positive. Her and her coaches, they’re always so nice to everyone I can look up to. So, yeah, I really like her.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Peter Rutherford)