TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Naomi Osaka travels to Melbourne to defend her Australian Open title after a tumultuous 2019 year. She reached the world rankings, changed coaches twice and became the second highest paid athlete in the world.
Osaka’s victory over Petra Kvitova in Melbourne last year earned her a second consecutive Grand Slam title after her success at the 2018 US Open. However, she quickly had trouble coping with the pressure to be the world’s number 1.
Osaka separated from coach Sascha Bajin shortly after her win against Kvitova and said in August that she “hadn’t had any fun playing tennis since Melbourne”.
In the same month, the business magazine Forbes Serena Williams placed second in the list of the highest paid athletes of the previous year.
After disappointing performances at the remaining Grand Slams, Osaka regained shape late last season, winning titles at the Pan Pacific Open and the China Open.
In December she switched to her third coach of the year – Belgian Wim Fissette – and achieved third place in the world at the first Grand Slam in 2020 with a new outlook on life.
“I feel like I experience so many things in my life and … and I try to put everything in perspective that these are things I never thought I would be able to do.” Osaka said before this month’s Brisbane International.
After Osaka left the WTA final last year with a shoulder injury, he and her sister Mari were able to spend a longer vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
While rest and relaxation in the Caribbean would have been her top priority, she experienced a “near-death experience” while paddling with her sister on the trip.
After waiving U.S. citizenship when she turned 22 last October – Japan does not allow dual citizenship for adults – Osaka confirmed that she would represent the hosts at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Related Slideshow: About Naomi Osaka (provided by Photo Services)
Hopefully with two Grand Slam titles, Osaka will add Olympic gold to her trophy cabinet this year and may start accompanying Serena Williams and Steffi Graf as the only female player to win all four majors and the Olympics.
Before that, however, she has to use the Australian Open to prove that the difficulties of the past season are all behind her and to show that she will do business in 2020.