The Japanese player is one of the more successful tennis players in recent history, yet she struggled with her game before announcing her pregnancy early in 2023.
But with more than a year away from the tennis courts, Osaka will return to the competition at the 2024 Australian Open, and she's certainly capable of hurting the opposition, especially since she won the major in Melbourne twice already.
Previously, former WTA player Martina Navratilova warned Osaka not to go too fast on her comeback, and now, former coach of Serena Williams, Rick Macci, talked exclusively to Tennis Infinity, discussing the abilities of the former world no. 1 to come back.
According to Macci, it's important for Osaka to have the desire to fight on the tennis court, without that, it may not be possible for her to succeed.
"She has to be all about the competition. There has to be a thirst for competition like no other, a hunger like no other. Every point is your last breath. But when you're the richest female athlete on the planet, and your whole life has changed, and she's like just iconic, especially in her own country, and now she's a mother, sometimes you don't go as deep for the jugular."
The 68-year-old also mentioned the 24-time Grand Slam champion, Novak Djokovic, praising the Serbian for his determination. Despite being the most successful player ever, Djokovic still keeps going, and Osaka will soon also answer the question of whether she has what it takes to stay motivated despite her previous success.
"And that's what you got to respect the most about the Serbian GOAT, the Serbian sniper, Djokovic. I mean, to have that drive still, and we're gonna find that out about Osaka."
Macci, who has seen a lot of comebacks in his life, knows exactly how this one will go. According to the American, Osaka will not avoid criticism, as that's a new normal in the world of sports, and the question will be how well can she handle it.
"She's gonna lose, from losing, that should motivate her, she should look at this like, I got a long, long, long career, but she has to want to do it. There's going to be a lot of criticism. There was before. There's gonna be a lot of blowback. You gotta have earplugs on, you can't listen to anybody, but she has the game."
According to Macci, Osaka possesses the qualities to start winning again, and he even says that she should be able to return to the Top 10 of the WTA Rankings by the end of the 2024 season.
"But if you don't have the desire, if it's not the most important thing in your life, when you step on that court, it's not going to work. But I think she can come all the way back, and I think she can be Top 10 by the end of the year. If she does the things that I'm saying, but I don't know. She has to feel that way. You don't know what someone feels, their desire, their thirst for competition. How bad does she want it?"