The Abu Dhabi Open, which is a WTA 500 event, is generally very brutal because so many great players are taking part. Nothing shows it better than the qualifiers, which feature the likes of Sofia Kenin, who is a former Australian Open champion.
Osaka will also play at the event. Her coach advised her to play as much tennis as possible after a somewhat shorter stay in Australia. She had high hopes for the Australian Open, and while the match she played was a solid comeback, it wasn't quite the way she wanted it to be.
The Australian Open and the loss to Caroline Garcia were disappointing because they showed glaring flaws. She was not in perfect shape, which is normal, but it's something that she'll need to change in the coming weeks if she hopes to really be competitive.
The draws are not being kind to her either, as the brutal Abu Dhabi Open served her a really tough opponent in the second round of the tournament. The first round will be very playable for the four-time Grand Slam champion because she's facing a qualifier.
Obviously, if that ends up being some of the higher-ranked players, then it won't be easy, but whoever it is, it will be easier than the top-seeded Elena Rybakina, who waits in the second round.
That's a brutal matchup for Osaka because Rybakina is one of the best players in the world. It's a great challenge, and if she somehow plays a close match or even wins, then it would be a huge confidence boost.
None of it will matter if she doesn't win the first-round match, so as always, it's one step at a time. The Abu Dhabi Open starts already on February 5th, and the event promises many exciting matches, including a meeting between Emma Raducanu and Marie Bouzkova.