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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday January 3, 2024

Naomi Osaka suffered the first defeat of her comeback on Wednesday in Brisbane, falling to former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4, but the hard-fought loss at the Brisbane International has not dampened the enthusiasm of the four-time major champion.

Playing her first event since giving birth to her baby Shai, new mom Osaka says just taking the court in Brisbane, where she won her first round and was barely edged by Pliskova in her second, is a big step in the right direction.

Tennis Express

“I think for me even stepping on the court is a personal win because a couple of weeks ago I was even doubting if I could play with everyone,” Osaka told reporters. “So I guess these two matches that I've had kind of prove to me that I am doing okay, and the year is just going to get better for me.”

Osaka had her chances to win. She took the opening set from Pliskova, but wasn’t able to squeeze through tight second and third sets against Pliskova. Eventually, it was the three-time Brisbane champion who prevailed in the pair’s first meeting since 2020 (also in Brisbane and also won by Pliskova).

Pliskova improves to 4-2 lifetime against Osaka, and has now won three of the last four meetings the pair of former No.1s have contested.

“Even though it's super disappointing today, I know that if I keep training and if I keep putting in the work, then I'll eventually get to where I want to be,” Osaka said.

After the loss Osaka told reporters that she is playing with a greater sense of perspective. Observers can see it in her body language; Osaka appears less stressed, and genuinely happy to be competing.

The 26-year-old elaborated on the subject, and spoke of the fact that the birth of her daughter has helped her see the sport in a different light.

“I think I'm enjoying myself a lot more, and I also realize there's a lot of things that aren't in my control… Other than that, I feel more aware that I'm playing the best players in the world. Both of us have an opportunity to win,” she said.

“I also just think I've trained so hard after giving birth that I need to enjoy these moments, and I also think in a way watching Sharapova, Serena retiring, I know that the tennis lifespan isn't that long, so I should enjoy it while I can.”