Naomi Osaka came up short at the Brisbane International but leaves the tournament with full confidence in her level. 

Pliskova overcomes Osaka to make Round of 16 in Brisbane

"I think for me even stepping on the court is a personal win because a couple of weeks ago I was even doubting if I could play with everyone," Osaka said after her second-round loss to Karolina Pliskova. "So I guess these two matches that I've had kind of prove to me that I am doing OK, and the year is just going to get better for me.

"Even though it's super disappointing today, I know that if I keep training and if I keep putting in the work, then I'll eventually get to where I want to be."

In her first tournament in 15 months, Osaka's power was on display in her two matches, against Tamara Korpatsch and Pliskova. It was enough to get past the German in straight sets in the first round, but Osaka, a four-time major winner, said there was little she could do to fend off Pliskova. 

"I'm not really sure if I can be too hard on myself, if that makes sense," Osaka said. "I knew going into the match, we had stats on where she serves specifically, but then she changed it up on me.

"I knew that she was going to play really well, and whenever I play her, it's always three sets. The week is definitely shorter than I wanted it to be, but overall I think it was a great match, and I had a lot of fun."

Like Osaka, Pliskova is also a former No.1-ranked player who was returning from a protracted injury layoff. Her vaunted serve proved too good for Osaka on Wednesday. Pliskova came from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. It was a similar score to their last meeting, which came on the same court four years ago. There, Pliskova saved match point to win 7-6(10), 6-7(3), 6-2 en route to her third Brisbane title.

"I feel like I'm pretty good where I am right now," Osaka said. "Even the last time I played her, I think I played better today. Well, score-wise at least.

"Honestly, I think I'm pretty good. Like, the court is just really ... It's her court, you know what I mean? I guess I'll see what happens in Melbourne."

Osaka's top winners from her comeback match in Brisbane

Before the tournament, Osaka admitted to being unsure of where her level was compared to the rest of the players on tour. She had won her preseason practice matches against hitting partners, but she did not know whether that would translate in competition. 

After two matches, Osaka could pat herself on the back for how she fought. In the first round against Korpatsch, she pulled herself out of a second-set dip to win an 11-9 tiebreak. Against Pliskova, she held her own to force the Czech to hold her high level.

"I just relearned that -- this is my opinion -- but I think I have a lot of heart," Osaka said. "I think when I'm playing and I'm at my best, I'm just really putting my entire soul into every point.

"So, I don't know, it was fun to play that and rediscover that feeling again."

Osaka now heads to Melbourne to finish her Australian Open preparations. In addition to practice, she will participate in a charity match on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday before the tournament. Already a two-time champion in Melbourne, it will be her first return to Melbourne Park since 2022.

"I think I'm enjoying myself a lot more, and I also realize there's a lot of things that aren't in my control. I feel more aware that I'm playing the best players in the world. Both of us have an opportunity to win.

"I also just think I've trained so hard after giving birth that I need to enjoy these moments, and I also think in a way watching Sharapova, Serena retiring, I know that the tennis lifespan isn't that long, so I should enjoy it while I can."