Former World No.1 Naomi Osaka kicked off the new year by notching her first win in 15 months, defeating Germany's Tamara Korpatsch 6-3, 7-6(9) in the first round of the Brisbane International. The match marked Osaka's return to the Hologic WTA Tour after giving birth to her daughter in July. 

"The last couple of years that I played before I had my daughter, I didn't return as much love as I was given," Osaka said on court. "I feel like that's what I want to do in this chapter.

"I just really appreciate people coming out and knowing me and cheering for me, because I feel like there was a time I was just a little kid trying to watch my role models play. So it feels really surreal sometimes to be playing on these courts."

Taking the court for the first time since the 2022 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Osaka showed few signs of rust for much of the match. The two-time Australian Open champion has thrived on Australia's hard courts in the past, and her clean ball-striking was on display from the first point. Osaka finished the match with 36 winners to 21 unforced errors, while holding Korpatsch to 13 winners. 

"Looking back on the match now, honestly I'm very proud of myself," Osaka said. "I feel like I played at a pretty good level. I think my opponent played really well, as well. Honestly, all I can think of is, like, the consistent nerves that I had. So just getting through that really tough match and hopefully building on it.

"I think my next match will be a really good test on that."

Match notes: Osaka took the first four points of the match to break Korpatsch at love and protected her lead through the end of the clinical 39-minute opening set. Osaka rode her vaunted serve to easy holds, and she did not face a break point in the first set. 

With Korpatsch serving down 4-3 in the second set, Osaka saved two game points before breaking on her fourth break chance of the game to open a 5-3 lead.

Turning point: Serving for her first complete-match win since 2022 San Jose, Osaka's clinical finishing went wayward. Facing two break points at 5-3, 15-30, Osaka misfired on consecutive backhands to hand back the break. 

Having missed her opportunity to close out the win, Osaka's precision hitting began to miss its mark with more frequency. She found herself serving down 0-30 at 5-5, as her backhand faltered more frequently. After taking a moment to refocus, Osaka powered down four consecutive points to hold.

In the tiebreak, Osaka came from 4-2 down to reel in Korpatsch, but not without dramatics. As the tug-o-war continued, Osaka wiped out two set points to extend the tiebreak to 9-9. A missed backhand from Korpatsch gave Osaka a third match point and this time the Japanese star finished with a clinical forehand strike to seal the win after 1 hour and 48 minutes. 

Osaka speaks: "I think maybe some of my decisions weren't the best. But I think it's better to have harder matches because it will train me for what's to come. I know all the opponents I play aren't easy anyway, so it would be I don't want to say crazy, but very out there for me to think my first match would be a 6-1, 6-1."

Next up: Osaka will face three-time Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova in the second round, a showdown between two former World No.1s. Their last meeting came in Brisbane in 2020, where Pliskova saved match points to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 in the semifinals.