Naomi Osaka practicing in Melbourne ahead of the 2022 Australian summer of tennis
Naomi Osaka will commence her 2022 season at the WTA 250 event in Melbourne, which is part of the Melbourne Summer Set. The Set comprises three events — one ATP 250 and two WTA 250s – that serve as warm-up for the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
Osaka last played a competitive tennis match at the 2021 US Open, where she lost to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez. While she is likely to be rusty after her prolonged absence, she will be looking forward to getting some matches under her belt at Melbourne Park, where she has twice lifted the Australian Open trophy.
On that note, here’s a look at the top seed’s potential path to the final at the Melbourne Summer Set.
Naomi Osaka’s first-round opponent: Alize Cornet
Alize Cornet at the 2021 bett1open
Naomi Osaka will begin her campaign against France’s Alize Cornet. Osaka registered a straight-sets win in their only previous meeting at the Gippsland Trophy last year.
The former World No. 1 will look to play to her strengths and attack the Frenchwoman’s serve, which has proven to be a significant weakness in her game in the past.
Naomi Osaka’s second-round opponent: Petra Martic/Maryna Zanevska
Petra Martic at the 2021 US Open
In the second round, Naomi Osaka could face either the tricky Croat Petra Martic or World No. 89 Maryna Zanevska. While Martic, a veteran on the WTA tour, will be hoping to put her dismal 2021 season behind her, Zanevska will be riding a wave of momentum after winning her maiden career title at the Poland Open last year.
Naomi Osaka has never faced the Belgian before, but did prevail against Martic in three sets when they met at Stanford back in 2014. Should Osaka face Martic in the second round, she will have to be wary of the Croat’s diverse skillset.
Naomi Osaka’s likely quarterfinal opponent: Liudmila Samsonova/Zhang Shuai
Liudmila Samsonova at Wimbledon 2021
Naomi Osaka could face familiar foe Zhang Shuai or fifth seed Liudmila Samsonova in the quarterfinals. Samsonova had a terrific 2021 season, winning her maiden career title in Berlin and cracking the top 40 in the world rankings.
Zhang Shuai, meanwhile, produced solid runs in Nottingham and Angers, reaching the final of both events.
While Osaka has never faced the Russian before, she enjoys a 3-2 head-to-head advantage over the Chinese No. 1.
Naomi Osaka’s likely semifinal opponent: Veronika Kudermetova/Katerina Siniakova/Madison Brengle
J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2021 – Day Two
While Kudermetova and Siniakova are basking in Olympic glory following their bronze and gold medal-winning displays in doubles in Tokyo, Brengle is high on confidence after winning the WTA 125K event in Midland in December.
Osaka hasn’t played against Kudermetova before, but her head-to-head against Siniakova is tied at 1-1. Her sole meeting with Brengle came back in 2013 in Rock Hill, US, where the American prevailed in straight sets.
Naomi Osaka’s likely opponent in the final: Simona Halep/Viktorija Golubic/Tereza Martincova
Simona Halep at the 2021 Upper Austria Ladies Linz
Halep was plagued by injuries in 2021, but managed to end on a high by reaching the final in Cluj-Napoca.
Martincova, meanwhile, made her maiden WTA final at the Prague Open, while Golubic won the silver medal in doubles alongside Belinda Bencic at the Tokyo Olympics.
Osaka leads the head-to-head against Golubic and Martincova 1-0, but has lost four of five meetings with Halep.