Naomi Osaka is still regaining her tennis form after a year-long break from the game on maternity leave. Osaka drew a tough opponent in the first round of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, American Danielle Collins. Collins defeated Osaka in their last meeting in the first round of the 2022 US Open and prevailed again in Abu Dhabi.
The beginning of the match was a serving clinic. Each woman served impressively. The 11th game is where things started to turn. Collins was able to prevail and hold a tense game at 6-5 to win the first set 7-5 in 54 minutes. Collins ran away with the second set 6-0 keeping up her spectacular serving.
The second set was a tale of opposites. Osaka's serve waivered, and Collins took advantage. Collins survived this tough test and gets an even tougher one in the second round with the tournament's top seed, Elena Rybakina. In her postmatch on-court interview, Collins confirmed that this is her last season on the WTA Tour, an admission she first made after losing to Iga Swiatek at the Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka's slow comeback
No one thought the comeback would be easy. She gave birth to her first child, Shai, over the summer and is trying to get back into physical and mental match play condition. Tough opponents as in former Top Ten players such as Collins, Karolina Pliskova, and Caroline Garcia.
Vintage Osaka is not back yet, but it is a wise move for her to play more. A doubles pairing with Ons Jabeur in Abu Dhabi will help. What has been refreshing is that Osaka is not taking herself so seriously on the court. Though things are not going her way, she still smiles at times and is patiently working her way through the issues of her comeback.
Osaka recently said that she does not know what to expect from herself, maybe she could be in contention later in the year. There is a reason why Kim Clijsters is the only modern era mother who has won Grand Slams after giving birth.