Quick healer Naomi Osaka overcomes fear of fitness ahead of Australian Open title defense


Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka on Saturday allayed fears of a stomach injury that forced the former world number one of Japan to withdraw from the tune-up event last week. Playing her first tournament in four months in Melbourne, the 24-year-old won three matches in the WTA 250 event but then withdrew before her semifinals, casting doubt on her preparations for title defense at Melbourne Park.

“I am recovering very well,” Osaka told reporters with a smile. “I am just as good as I can be in the present moment.

“But I think athletes, we always have swallows. It’s kind of impossible to play slam without experiencing something. I’m just aware of that and I know you can’t always be perfect. “

Osaka struggled for form after withdrawing from the French Open in May and following a row with tournament organizers over attendance in the required media, she said it had a negative effect on her mental health.

Osaka took a break from the game after losing in the third round of the US Open in September.

“I was a little nervous about how I would play at the break,” Osaka said, adding that he was taking a slightly different approach than his previous attempts to defend the main title.

Osaka have never advanced beyond the fourth round in their previous three Grand Slam title defenses.

“I learned in every match I played. For me, that was the most important part. Hopefully I can apply what I learned from the first tournament to the Australian Open. “

Osaka’s four major titles have landed on the hard court and he will begin his Melbourne Park campaign against 53rd-ranked Colombian Camilla Osorio.

More deeply in the draw, she could face world number one and home favorite Ash Barty in the fourth round, but Osaka was adamant not to stay that far ahead.

“Please don’t tell me,” Osaka said, raising his hand to interrupt the reporter’s question before smiling. Going to play.

“I was literally out somewhere yesterday and someone told me about Barty. I’m just trying to get through the first round. “

Osaka called Barty “the ideal number one.”

“She’s very consistent. She’s always very positive. She and her coach, they’re always really nice to everyone I can see. So, yeah, I really like her a lot.”

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