Naomi Osaka Hits Practice Court to Prepare for Her Tennis Return at the Brisbane International

AP Photo/Tertius Pickard
Naomi Osaka of Japan take a break during a training session ahead of the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023.

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Former No. 1 and new mom Naomi Osaka hit the practice court Wednesday ahead of the Brisbane International as she prepared for her much anticipated return to tennis.

Osaka will make her WTA comeback at the tournament which begins Sunday at Pat Rafter Arena. A two-time Australian and U.S. Open champion, Osaka pulled out of last year’s Australian Open in Melbourne before later revealing she was pregnant.

The U.S.-based Japanese player and her American rapper boyfriend Cordae became parents to daughter Shai in Los Angeles in July.

Osaka has only played one game since the 2021 U.S. Open in New York. She was leading Daria Gavrilova 1-0 at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September 2021, before the Australian suffered a serious knee injury and had to retire in the match.

She’s really pumped, excited to be back in Brisbane, tournament director Cameron Pearson said Wednesday. “She arrived Christmas morning and was out practicing a few hours later. No Christmas pudding for her, she was straight into it.”

Rafael Nadal is also set to return from injury in Brisbane in a 32-man ATP field so strong that Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem will have to qualify to feature in it.

Thiem made the Australian Open final in 2020 and Berrettini was a semifinalist two years later. Both are currently sitting outside the top-60 cutoff mark which received automatic entry into the season-opening event.

Holger Rune, at No. 8, is the highest-ranked male in the tournament. American Ben Shelton and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Andy Murray are also entered.

Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens are in the 54-player women’s draw.