Naomi Osaka learns Abu Dhabi first round opponent is Grand Slam finalist

Danielle Collins US
Danielle Collins celebrates

Naomi Osaka’s next adversary in her return to tennis is more than just a qualifier.

The four-time Grand Slam winner will meet 2022 Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins in the Abu Dhabi Open’s opening round.

Osaka is competing in her third event following a year-long maternity hiatus this week in the Middle East, where she obtained a wildcard.

The former No 1 two of her three matches in Australia, falling to former No 1 Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Garcia, admittedly both former Top 10 players, in the second round of the Brisbane International and the first round of the Australian Open respectively .

Collins, meanwhile, has won two straight-set wins in qualification this weekend to secure a berth in the main draw, and was paired against Osaka after qualifying ended on Sunday.#

Despite succumbing to Garcia early in Melbourne, Osaka reiterated her desire to fulfil an extensive schedule this season, following the birth of her first child, daughter Shai, in July 2023.

She will play doubles alongside Ons Jabeur at the event in the Emirates.

“I felt like when I was in L.A. training, I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with any of the girls that I played in my matches,” Osaka said in Melbourne. “Coming here and I guess playing three tough matches, I feel positive that I’m able to play, I’m at least able to challenge them.

The competitive in me is really frustrated that I’m not winning these matches, of course. So I wouldn’t say, like, this comeback is how I thought because I’m delusional enough to think I could have won the tournament. … I think I just have to keep living day by day and training hard and playing a lot more matches, and hopefully my dreams will come true.”

Collins also made headlines on the Australian Open swing.

Despite leading 4-1 in the third set, the 30-year-old American was defeated by world No 1 Iga Swiatek in the Melbourne second round.

Collins later revealed to media that 2024 will be her final tour season.

“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good career,” Collins said.

“There has certainly been ups and downs to it, and I think the travel and some of the things away from the court with scheduling and all of that, this is a really tough sport.

“I have other things that I’d kind of like to accomplish in my life outside of tennis, and would like to be able to kind of be able to have the time to be able to do that.”

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