‘Things you love to see’: ‘Kinda rusty’ Naomi Osaka lauded by US Open as she teases return... months after bosses made ban threat
Naomi Osaka could end her tennis exile by defending her Australian Open title after dropping a huge hint to her millions of fans – and has been backed by the US Open, which threatened her with a possible ban earlier this year.
The 24-year-old shared a series of photos of herself, with the first one showing her racket-in-hand on a private tennis court resting against the net.
"Kinda rusty but it feels good to be back," she wrote, having previously heavily suggested that she would be taking an indefinite break from action.
"I really want to say thank you to everyone for all the kind messages; I really appreciate it."
Osaka has not played competitively since being dumped out of the US Open in the third round by the shock finalist Leylah Annie Fernandez, who was beaten by Brit Emma Raducanu for the trophy Osaka won last year and in 2018.
Osaka held a tearful press conference afterwards, leading to speculation that her future in the sport was in doubt.
In the comments section to the post, the Flushing Meadows tournament popped up with a "things you love to see" reply, which appears to mark something of a change of attitude from the Grand Slam organizers.
In May this year, the US Open co-signed a statement alongside tennis' other major tournaments regarding the Japanese sensation.
It detailed a $15,000 fine and threatened a ban if she continued to shun media responsibilities, after trying "unsuccessfully" to speak to Osaka while she carried out a media boycott.
Long, stern statement from the Grand Slams on Naomi Osaka’s media boycott, which got her a $15,000 and could be considered a major offense with escalating penalties including suspension. They also emphasized their interest in her well-being. #RG21pic.twitter.com/heGaZujhly— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 30, 2021
Osaka's most recent correspondence signals that she might be readying a comeback soon.
In an appearance on HBO's The Shop, which is produced by NBA legend LeBron James, in late September, she said: "I know I’m going to play again.
”Probably soon, because I kind of have that itch again, but it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost.
"I’d just have the joy of being back on the court, just to... know that I’m doing it for myself.”
Eagle-eyed punters might have spotted that the last photo in her reel contains a close-up of an Australian Open ball.
Amid vaccine controversy involving the world's top two male players, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, the Melbourne tournament is set to get underway on February 8.
And in showing her face Down Under, Osaka would defend the crown she won in 2019 and 2021.
Before teasing a possible return to her day job, Osaka was last seen spending time in Europe.
Supposedly camera-shy Osaka posed on a boat in Mykonos and on the streets of Rome, and has also been seen doing cover shoots for the likes of Vogue and attending the glamorous Met Gala.