Tennis: Disappointed Naomi Osaka falls in Australian Open first round against French veteran Caroline Garcia

Naomi Osaka is disappointed to bow out of the Australian Open in the first round on her Grand Slam return, but thinks she is making rapid progress in her comeback, after 15 months out of the game.

The Japanese former world No.1, who took time out to have daughter Shai, went down 6-4 7-6(2) to French 16th seed Caroline Garcia on the Rod Laver Arena court, where she won two of her four Grand Slam titles.

"I thought it was a really good match," she said. "For me, I felt like I did the best that I could possibly do.

Naomi Osaka in action at the Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka in action at the Australian Open. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I think I still feel like a bit disappointed... I did feel nervous, but I felt like I kept telling myself to be positive. I thought I kept doing better as the match went on.

"I'm not too happy right now, but I think I can learn from the progress."

Taking on the experienced Garcia was always a big challenge for Osaka, who had played only two matches in Brisbane two weeks ago since her return to tournament tennis.

A double fault gave Garcia the first breakpoint of the match in the fifth game and the former world No.4 converted it to edge ahead.

Osaka had a sniff of a break back at deuce in the eighth game, but dumped a routine backhand into the net, and Garcia held with back-to-back aces, before going on to take the set.

Back foot

Twice US Open champion Osaka won her first three service games of the second set to love, but Garcia was serving so well, Osaka was unable to build any pressure with her returns.

"I felt like I was constantly on my back foot and really hesitant," she added.

"I was a little bit overthinking in my head where to go. I think that's something that will come in time, but right now, it kind of sucks a little."

Garcia, who raced through the second-set tiebreak to clinch her place in round two, is sure Osaka will quickly return to the top of the game.

"She has had an amazing career, she has been away for 15 months and been through a lot," the said Garcia, 30. "Six months after giving birth and she's playing amazing, so we have to watch out."

Osaka, 26, made her earliest exit in eight visits to the Australian Open and her third successive loss in the opening round of a Grand Slam, after falling at the first hurdle at the 2022 French and US Opens.

She clearly struggled to reconcile her disappointment at the loss with the fact that she was so competitive after such a long period on the sidelines.

"Of course, there's a voice in my head that is, 'Who are you to think you can come back and immediately start winning matches?'," Osaka said.

"I don't know. I kind of always expect myself to stand a chance anyways."