Rare title defence on the cards?
Holding up the trophy in 2019 and 2021, Naomi Osaka flourishes in the heat and intensity of playing Down Under.
The 24-year-old curtailed last season after the US Open, but is back rebooted and seeking a rare defence as the reigning champion.
Only eight women have retained the Australian Open trophy in the Open Era, the last player was Victoria Azarenka back in 2012-13.
The problem now is that the depth in women’s tennis is so impressive, that true contenders can turn up well down the rankings. Serena Williams winning Wimbledon in 2015-16 was the last instance in major play.
Osaka made her comeback at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 event earlier this month, chalking up three victories before withdrawing with an abdominal scare.
“I feel like when I come back here at the start of the year, it's like a breath of fresh air,” stated the Japanese star. “Everyone is super, super nice. The vibes here are really good.
“So of course, my intention is to do well here. But you're playing the best players in the world, and for me I also feel like I need to play matches right now. Hopefully I get more into the groove of things.”
Should Osaka triumph, the world No.14 will join Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis on five Grand Slam singles titles.