Naomi Osaka’s difficult run of form continues with Melbourne exit

It is yet another tough result to take for the career of Naomi Osaka, as the 24-year-old suffers another setback in her recovery, exiting the Australian Open prematurely in the third round. The Japanese star, who is currently 13th in the official world rankings, looked a far cry from her usual self as she was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) by unseeded American Amanda Anisimova.

The outcome was certainly a bitter pill to swallow for the former world number one, not just in terms of her legacy in the history books, but how much work needs to be done for her to return to her best. The reality of the situation is that women’s tennis is unpredictable, and this game exemplifies how the tennis betting odds can be proven wrong at any given moment. For the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in women’s singles, this would have been a crushing blow, but one she is capable of coming back from.

That isn’t to take anything away from Anisimova, whose performance to overcome the odds was a goliath effort in itself. Having been cast into the spotlight when she reached the 2019 French Open semi-finals aged 17, Anisimova slithered back into anonymity for some time, but a variety of serves and a strong forehand game ensured she booked her place into the next round, despite Osaka’s reputation and how much was on the line. The Japanese pro admitted her performance wasn’t good enough and she’s not perfect upon missing out on the chance to win a fifth Grand Slam.

You know, like, I’m not God, I can’t win every match.” She said, “so I just have to take that into account and know that it would be nice to win the tournament, but that’s really special, and I can’t think of myself to try to win the grand slam at the start of the year every time.

“I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude.”

The last time we had seen Osaka before Melbourne was during the difficult summer of 2021. Another relatively unexpected departure from the US Open against teenager Leylah Fernandez left her in tears following an underwhelming Olympics — failing to bring a medal back to her homeland of Japan. It ended with Osaka taking a break from tennis and after the first leg of her comeback has ended badly in Melbourne, you wonder where Osaka goes from here.

She has certainly endured a difficult time, especially with her mental health issues, and a degree of patience has to be allowed until Osaka can once again find her feet. There is no doubt a ridiculously talented player is hidden away in there somewhere, one who cruised to victory in the 2018 US Open despite not being touted as a favourite. At just 24, we’re sure Osaka has the resilience and longevity to be remembered as one of the sport’s greats. However, this is certainly a watershed moment in her career where another Grand Slam title admittedly looks some way away.

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