Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2024

Naomi Osaka admits to copying ‘best returner in the world’ Novak Djokovic

Naomi Osaka has won back-to-back matches for the first time since the 2022 Miami Open, and the former No.1 has suggested that she has taken inspiration from ATP world No.1, Novak Djokovic.

Osaka is into the quarter-finals at the Qatar Open, after obtaining wins over Caroline Garcia and Petra Martic in Doha.

The 26-year-old was scheduled to play Lesia Tsurenko, who knocked out world No.6 Ons Jabeur yesterday, but the Ukrainian has withdrawn due to an elbow injury and given Osaka a walkover.

It is the first tournament since returning from maternity leave where Osaka has won back-to-back matches, with her only previous victory this year coming over Tamara Korpatsch in Brisbane.

And the four-time Grand Slam singles champion has revealed what she has been working on, drawing similarities in her return to Djokovic.

“I did change my return – I don’t want to say ‘style’ but I guess form. I don’t know how to describe it,” said Osaka.  “Like, before I was taking one step, one step, and then jumping in, but now I’m just jumping in with both feet, because apparently Djokovic does that, so why not copy the best returner in the world?”

Osaka has often been praised for her powerful serve and hit a total of seven aces against Martic, but admitted that she found it ‘frustrating’ that the return was not quite up to the same level.

“It was frustrating knowing that my serve is one of the best serves, dare I say, in the world,” claimed Osaka. “But I just really wanted to work on the things I know should be a lot better and the return was one of them. We were talking about it a lot in the off-season and leaving Melbourne, definitely needed to improve it.”

After having an unplanned day off in the Qatari capital, Osaka will now turn her attention to the quarter-finals, where she will play Karolina Pliskova, who beat her in Brisbane last month.

Inside the baseline…

It has been a very positive and needed week for Naomi Osaka, after a challenging return following her 15-month hiatus from the WTA Tour. As a result of achieving her best result at the Qatar Open, Osaka has climbed almost 500 places in the rankings and would considerably further that if she is to move into the semi-finals.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.