Naomi Osaka’s rivals warned she is going to be a danger – ‘People were too quick to get down on Naomi’

Shahida Jacobs
Naomi Osaka during her match
Naomi Osaka of Japan shows the new balls during her tennis match

Naomi Osaka is “in good shape” and will be a danger to the rest of the WTA Tour with tennis commentator Mark Petchey saying people wrote her off too quickly following her Australian Open display.

Former world No 1 Osaka skipped the 2023 tennis season as she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Shai, in July before returning to competitive action at the beginning of the 2024 campaign.

After winning her opening match at her comeback event at the Brisbane International, Osaka lost three consecutive matches as she was defeated in the second round of the WTA 500 tournament before going down in straight sets in the first round at both the Australian Open and Abu Dhabi Open.

Naturally, questions were raised about whether or not she returned to action too quickly with tennis great Martina Navratilova particularly critical.

Following her exit from the season-opening Grand Slam, Navratilova assessed her performance and said: “Tennis-wise, it was maybe a B-plus performance. But overall a C, because she couldn’t get to the ball that she wants to hit because she is not in shape.

“I am surprised that she started playing, that she got on the tour that she played this tournament without clearly being in the tip-top shape she needs to be in order to put herself in the position to hit the big, big balls.”

READ MORE: Naomi Osaka opens up about her bold goals – ‘I know people are going to probably drag me’

Osaka, though, bounced back impressively at the Qatar Open as she reached the quarter-final before going down in straight sets against Karoline Pliskova.

That run helped her to surge 461 places in the WTA Rankings and she now finds herself at No 286.

Petchey believes there is a lot more to come from the former world No 1.

“I thought people were too quick to get down on Naomi after that loss,” he said on the Tennis Channel Inside-In podcast.

“I thought people were… I mean they already wrote her down on natural surfaces, probably they were thinking it was the US Open and I was like, ‘No, she looked good, she just didn’t have the time on the ball because Caroline [Garcia] played great’.

“I’m delighted that she has bounced back quickly to win those matches. She’s in good shape. I don’t mean that as physical, I mean she’s in good shape hitting the ball, physically, mentally, she looks happy, I think she’s going to be a danger.”

Osaka was due to return to action at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championship, but withdrew from the event. She will next be in action at the Indian Wells Open where she will enter via her special ranking.