Naomi Osaka is facing the harsh reality that her comeback is not going as well as she had hoped, and it's causing her to lose confidence.
The Japanese player remembers a time when she was a dominant force in tennis. She was winning events left and right, including four Grand Slam trophies, and she seemed destined to reach double-digit numbers.
That's not the case anymore because tennis evolves, and by missing a large part of the previous two years, Osaka simply got overrun. She had high hopes about her return, believing herself to be good enough to pick it up quickly.
While she is good enough and likely will return to a high level eventually, that's not going to happen as quickly as she had hoped.
The Australian Open was a cold shower for her, as well as this experience at the 2024 Abu Dhabi Open. She lost in singles and then she lost also with Ons Jabeur in doubles, causing her to question herself.
Talking to Reem Abulleil in Abu Dhabi, Osaka admitted that her confidence took a hit, but not enough to stop her from believing that she could return to the top.
"I think I’m going to finish out the hard-court swing and then figure it out. I’m less confident but I’m not too unconfident to think that I can’t play really good tennis."
It's an interesting time for Osaka, who will try to play as much as possible before releasing what she plans to do in the coming months. Currently, she needs to play as many matches as possible. However, that may be difficult with the upcoming run of WTA 1000 events.
Still, she currently seems to have a fitness issue, and playing only one match per week won't solve that for her. She needs a lot of matches and consistency, which smaller events could provide.