Naomi Osaka in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka is set for a huge return to Melbourne Park, with Australian great Todd Woodbridge saying the 24-year-old’s attitude has changed dramatically.
Woodbridge described his time interviewing Osaka on Thursday as “relaxed,” and a stark contrast to his demeanor before his mental health break in the middle of last year.
“She’s obviously in a very different place than where she was in May 2021,” he said on Channel Nine.
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Osaka sensationalally pulled out of Roland Garros ahead of the second round to take a mental health break. She was also absent from Wimbledon, before participating in the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron.
“The time away from the match gave her the prospect that she needed to return to Grand Slam tennis, and what better place to come back than the Australian Open where you have such strong memories because you have it. have won twice before, ”says Woodbridge.
“You’re the defending champion, but the way she reacted to me today was that there was no pressure on her and I’m so happy that I can say that, because everyone wants that. it is efficient. “
She then took another hiatus from tennis after losing at the US Open in September, not having resumed racquets until last week’s Summer Set.
“I feel like recently when I win, I don’t feel happy, I feel more like relief. When I lose, I feel very sad,” she said after the third round loss.
Osaka won all three of their games at Rod Laver Arena last week, before withdrawing from the semi-finals with injury.
“I just think she really enjoys being back on the tour, she now has a much better understanding of what is needed for her to perform well, but also enjoy what she does,” added Woodbridge.
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He also said there were no concerns about his health, despite being withdrawn from last week’s event semifinals due to an abdominal injury.
“The last time she won the tournament it was a very similar scenario – she had enough games under her belt, she got a little injured, took a few days’ break just to do physiotherapy. , cool off for the start of the tournament and played brilliantly. “
Osaka will face Australia’s Ash Barty in the fourth round of the tournament, assuming both women reach this stage – and upset is certainly not out of the question.
“Watch out, she’s dangerous, the 13th seed and in an interesting part of the draw.”
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