Four-time grand slam champion and former world No 1 Naomi Osaka will make her eagerly awaited comeback at the restored Brisbane International.
Brisbane officials on Friday confirmed they had snared Osaka as their prized drawcard for the Australian Open lead-up event from December 31 to January 7.
“I am really excited about getting back out on court and competing,” Osaka said in a statement.
“I always love starting my season in Brisbane and can’t wait to return. The Brisbane International is such a great tournament and will set me up for a brilliant comeback this summer.”
A two-time Australian and US Open winner, Osaka was a surprise and mysterious scratching from last year’s Melbourne Park major before later revealing she was pregnant.
Australian Open 2024 promises big names to outshine past problems | Courtney WalshRead more
The Japanese superstar and her American rapper partner Cordae welcomed daughter Shai in Los Angeles in July.
“Well that was a cool little intermission, now back to your regularly scheduled program,” Osaka posted on social media at the time. “Can’t wait to get back on the court.”
The 26-year-old is the latest of a batch of tennis players who are mothers, including fellow former Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, to announce a return to tennis.
Osaka has only played one game, let alone a match, since the 2021 US Open in New York. She was leading Daria Gavrilova 1-0 at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September, 2021, before the Australian tore an ACL. Osaka then forfeited her second-round match before taking time out to have her first child.
Snaring Osaka as the headline act is a fitting addition for the return of the Brisbane International, which hasn’t been staged since 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the tournament off the international program.
But with a long list of heavyweight champions including Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Nick Kyrgios and Victoria Azarenka on the honour rolls, it has historically been one of the most popular events of the year.
Women’s world No 22 Victoria Azarenka, who has a 15-2 win-loss record at the Brisbane International, will join Osaka in the WTA 500 tournament.
skip past newsletter promotion
Sign up to The Recap
Free weekly newsletter
The best of our sports journalism from the past seven days and a heads-up on the weekend’s action
after newsletter promotion
‘From nowhere’: Holger Rune bounces back under new coach Boris BeckerRead more
Former world No 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will feature in the men’s ATP 250 field, along with Brisbane International 2017 champion Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and rising star Holger Rune of Denmark.
“It’s great to see the Brisbane International back and I am really looking forward to returning to Queensland this summer,” Murray said.
“I have great memories of winning the title in 2012 and 2013 and I would love to lift the trophy again for a third time in Brisbane.”
Nick Kyrgios has told Brisbane International officials it will be a “wait and see” approach as they remain hopeful the Australian will return from injury at the event he dominated five years ago.
Kyrgios has played just one match this year, wrist and back injuries stalling a 2022 resurgence that included a Wimbledon final and US Open quarter-final.
The 28-year-old is recovering from wrist surgery and has remained in touch with Brisbane tournament director Cam Pearson, who is confident his December 31-January 7 event is Kyrgios’s preferred comeback route.
“There’s been a lot of conversations to see whether or not he’ll be ready in time for January,” Pearson said.
“That’s still a wait and see approach. That’s what Nick said. We’ve got another month before entries close. Nick’s got time to continue his rehab and it’d be great to see him out on the court for sure.”