While for much of her career, things came very easy to Osaka because of her ranking, this tennis comeback is proving to be very hard. The Japanese player finally returned to tennis a few weeks ago in Australia and did pretty well.
She won a match in Brisbane and narrowly missed out on winning another one before touching down in Melbourne. The draw wasn't the best for her there, as she got Caroline Garcia, who put forth a vintage performance to beat the Japanese player.
The match proved a few things. Osaka was ready to play tennis, but she wasn't ready to compete. She's not quite there yet physically, but she will get there by playing. That's why she followed her coach's advice and chose to play in the Middle East, even though initially, it might not have been the plan.
There is a very good chance Osaka would have skipped that part of the season in favor of Indian Wells, but playing matches is never a bad idea. She'll even play doubles at the WTA 500 event in Abu Dhabi.
The draw was once again rather harsh. Her first-round opponent wasn't known initially because she got a qualifier. The second-round matchup was brutal, though, as she got Elena Rybakina, who is a really tough opponent for her.
Obviously, she needs to get there first, and that's far from certain because this year's qualifying draw was brutal as well. Lots of great players competed in the qualifying, and one of those ultimately fell to Osaka.
After the qualifiers were allocated to the draw, Osaka found out that former Australian Open Danielle Collins will be her first-round opponent, which is a brutal matchup.
That's very tough and, again, doesn't guarantee Osaka many matches in Abu Dhabi. It should be a great spectacle, though. After all, she does need tough matches like this one.