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Osaka armed with new perspective in tour return

  • Leigh Rogers

If Naomi Osaka is feeling any nerves ahead of her highly-anticipated comeback at this week’s Brisbane International, they aren’t showing.

The former world No.1 took time out from her preparations to visit Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on Friday, where she got up close and personal with native Australian wildlife.

She was all smiles as she took a selfie with a koala and happily fed kangaroos. The four-time Grand Slam champion was, however, a little apprehensive about getting too close to an emu.

With her team in tow, a cheerful and relaxed Osaka relished the opportunity. She took time to ask sanctuary staff questions, wanting to learn more about the animals she was meeting.

“Being a mum has changed my life a lot. I think it changed my perspective on a lot of things,” Osaka beamed.

The 26-year-old gave birth to her daughter, Shai, in July and is now set to contest her first tournament since September 2022.

“Giving birth was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through,” Osaka said.

“It’s definitely made me feel like physically I can handle a lot.

“I want to show Shai that she’s capable of everything, so that’s one of my main purposes and main reasons why I want to be back out here.”

Osaka, a two-time semifinalist in Brisbane, is unsure whether she should be considered a title contender at this week’s WTA 500 tournament at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

“That’s a tough question because I haven’t played in more than a year. I don’t know,” she said.

“I think I’ve given myself the biggest chance to do well, but at the same time, I haven’t had any match play. 

“I’m just embracing the fact that it’s my first tournament in a very long time. I’m just trying to have fun and do well at the same time.”

Main-draw action at the Brisbane International begins on 31 December.