Welcome all to coverage of Naomi Osaka’s first-round clash with Poland’s Magda Linette. All eyes will be on the Japanese in her first grand slam since winning a controversial US Open final last September.
Osaka said at her pre-Aussie Open presser that she doesn’t feel too different although she admits she’s “more comfortable talking to people”.
“I’ve sort of been put in the position that I have to. It’s not something I can avoid any more.”
Standing on the podium at the US Open waiting to be handed her trophy and a winner’s cheque after defeating Williams in an ill-tempered final, Osaka heard only boos from an angry and frustrated crowd.
That would have wilted most nerves of steel but it prompted Osaka to work more on the mental aspects of her game during the off-season.
“One of my biggest goals is to be more mature, like to mature as a person,” she said. “And I feel like in a way I am, but in other parts I’m very, like, three-year-old mentality, you know?
“I feel like it’s just levelling that out is one of my biggest goals I had during the off-season.”
She has also lost weight during the off-season but strictly to help her improve her game.
“I want to be faster. It’s not for looks or anything. I feel like it helps me play better. Like, I get to the ball faster, and I’m not as sore,” she said.
Melbourne Park remains a special place for Osaka as the Australian Open was the first Grand Slam where she got into the main draw through the qualifiers in 2016.
Things have changed significantly since then but Osaka is not getting too much ahead of herself.
“I mean, I feel like, of course, I have to take it one step at a time. No one wants to lose in the first round of a slam, I think. That would be my immediate goal,” she said.
“From there, I’ve been in the third round 100 million times already. That would be my next goal. Hopefully semis after that. Then I can think about, like, the finals and winning.
“There’s so many good players in this draw, I know that everyone wants to win this tournament. My first, immediate thought isn’t to win.”