Before coming to the 2024 Qatar Open in Doha, the four-time major winner had only one win to her name. She had several losses as she earned losses in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Abu Dhabi.
The last defeat at the WTA 500 tournament in Abu Dhabi left her disappointed, so getting a win was really needed. She got it done with a tremendous performance against Caroline Garcia, which consisted of both serving really well and also returning very well.
She was asked about her return after the match, which looked a bit different, and she confirmed that she did change it a little bit.
"I did change my return -- I don't want to say "style," but I guess form. I don't know how to describe it. Like, before I was taking one step, one step, and then jumping in, but now I'm kind of just jumping in with both feet, because apparently Djokovic does that, so why not copy the best returner in the world (smiling)?"
Copying Djokovic's return is certainly not a bad idea, but only if it works. If it doesn't work, then it's probably not the best approach for everyone, but it did work well for Osaka in her match in Doha.
Now, she will need to assess whether it keeps working for her in the future, but she seems pretty content with the new return movement right now. The Japanese player will now hope to build upon this victory and get more wins in the coming days.
The goal was always to find her best tennis before the Sunshine Double, where she will likely be able to do some damage if she finds her best tennis.
Her performance in Qatar clearly shows that she still has the ability but needs to get into a better rhythm and better shape. As her coach said, more matches are needed.