By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Former world no. 1 female tennis player Naomi Osaka received a disappointing first-round loss in the ongoing 2024 Australian Open last January 15, 2024.
Osaka bowed at the hands of 16th seed Caroline Garcia of France in a sweeping fashion- 6.4, 7.6- held at the legendary Rod Laver Arena court in Melbourne, Victoria.
Despite suffering one of her earliest exits on the Grand Slam stage, Osaka expressed that she fought with her all and didn’t regret taking on the challenge of competing at the sport’s highest level.
The Japanese ace made her comeback after a one-year hiatus several weeks ago during the Brisbane International and is still finding her hitting rhythm.
An error-plagued first set hounded Osaka’s chances of pulling off a miracle comeback against the seasoned Garcia who is seeking a better ranking in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Although Osaka kept her service game consistent with several aces and top-spin second serves, Garcia found several ways to break through and was wise with her returns.
Midway through the first set, Osaka had a glimmer of hope after holding her third service possession but Garcia scored two straight forehand bombs to clinch an early 1-0 lead.
Osaka made timely adjustments in the second frame after staying in the baseline to contest every Garcia down-the-line stroke.
That move paid dividends as Osaka was able to hold her ground and negate Garcia’s net prowess, helping her equalize the match at 6-all.
However, during the last two crucial sets, Garcia stepped on the gas pedal and took the risk of playing her serve-and-volley technique that caught Osaka off guard.
With the huge victory, Garcia will have the chance to book a third-round spot in the Australian Open if she takes down Magdalena Frech of Poland.