World No.3 Naomi Osaka extended her winning streak to 12 matches on Tuesday, defeating Alizé Cornet 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the Gippsland Trophy. The match was Osaka's first since winning the US Open in September.
"Actually I was nervous the entire match," Osaka told reporters after the win. "There were moments where it was less and there were moments where it was more, but I felt like I was really, really nervous just going, like walking onto the court.
"Even until the very last point, I think I was just thinking -- I don't know, the first match you come back and especially in a Grand Slam environment, it's definitely very hard."
Osaka will face Katie Boulter in the Round of 16. The 24-year-old Brit toughed out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Coco Gauff in the second round.
"I remember playing her in Wimbledon one year," Osaka recalled. "I don't remember what year it was, but I do remember thinking she was a really good player, and then I heard that she got injured and now she's back.
"I'm looking forward to playing her. It's really interesting to play players that are around the same age as me because I feel like we all have the same goals and stuff."
On the topic of playing her age cohorts, Osaka was asked to expand on a comment she made prior to the tournament about not wanting to play World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in an Australian Open final.
"When I say I wouldn't like to play her, I just know it's going to be hard," Osaka said. "It would be fun. I know there are people that I want to play that I know is going to be hard.
"Like I'd love to play [Bianca] Andreescu in a final. I think regardless of what I feel, I feel like the audience would have a lot of fun with that. I would love to play Iga [Swiatek].
"For me, it would be fun to play Barty, but it would stress me out. I think I would feel stressed out the day before."
Osaka has not taken a loss since Japan's Fed Cup tie against Spain last February. That loss came at the hands of Sara Sorribes Tormo, a 6-0, 6-3 loss that would be Osaka's last match before the tour shut down in March.
The Naomi Osaka that emerged from that five-month break has now won a dozen consecutive matches, including the seven that won her a third major title in New York.
"I go into each tournament just trying to do the best that I can," Osaka said. "I know that I have a really weird career in the way that I don't really do that great at small tournaments, so I'm hoping to like fix that. I want to do well at every tournament that I play."
"I feel like the last year changed me a lot. There were a lot of things I was struggling with, and I feel like during quarantine I really had to dig deep in myself and try to figure it out for myself. I feel like there's a lot of people that had to go through that, and I'm just a person that you happen to ask questions to a lot.
"I think the me from last year is very different from the me this year. There's a lot of things I think I learned last year, and even a lot of things that I do differently with my new team.
"I feel like for me, I just really trust them a lot, so I talk to them a lot about how I feel, and that's not something that I used to do before.
"Also I've had a three-month-long off-season, so we definitely practiced a lot of things, and hopefully I'm able to do them well in my matches."
"For me, it's almost like a privilege to be able to be here right now because there's so many things that are going on.
"Yeah, I would say that I'm more experienced. Maybe a year gave me more experience."