Osaka returned to tennis Down Under, playing in Brisbane before making her way to Melbourne. She had high hopes for the Australian Open but ran into a very inspired Caroline Garcia, who bested her in two sets.
It wasn't the result she hoped for, but Osaka remained optimistic, looking towards the future. She talked about her schedule after the exit, noting that her likely next event would be the Dubai Championships, but also hinted at possibly playing sooner as her coach instructed her to play as much as possible to get back to her best sooner.
With that in mind, Osaka accepted the Abu Dhabi Open wild card. The event will be played from February 3rd till the 11th with a pretty strong lineup consisting of Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko, Daria Kasatkina, Ons Jabeur, Emma Raducanu, Beatriz Haddad Maia and many others.
Regarding playing there, Osaka released a statement published by the event as part of the announcement of her wild card. In the statement, Osaka expressed excitement about competing at the event due to her previous experiences and the chance to play with the best.
"I’m very excited about competing in this year’s Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open and performing in front of the UAE tennis fans, who I know from previous experience will create a fantastic atmosphere."
Playing in Abu Dhabi makes a lot of sense for Osaka because it's a pretty strong field at the WTA 500 tournament, and she needs matches against those types of players to get back to her best.
"It’s a high-quality field with some of the world’s best players taking part, and I’m looking forward to what I’m sure will be a fantastic event."