January 9, 2024
Melinda Head

They Came, Did They Conquer?

Next up: Australian Open

The return to competition by highly accomplished Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka at the Brisbane International created world-wide headlines. We all waited in eager anticipation to see what would happen.

The left-handed Mallorcan, Rafael Nadal, 37 years old, has an impressive track record:

  • He has won 92 ATP singles titles, including 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles
  • He earned a Golden Slam, with titles at all 4 majors and an Olympic gold medal to boot
  • He is a father with an infant son
  • He has earned $125 million in prize money alone since turning pro in 2001
  • The video link below shows the 2008 Wimbledon championship match between Nadal and now retired Roger Federer – a match that many consider the best of all time and an important turning point

At age 26, Japanese American Naomi Osaka is considerably younger than Nadal, having left a completely different mark on the game (so far):

  • A controversial win at the US Open over hero Serena Williams put her on the map in 2018
  • Since turning pro in 2013, she has won 4 Grand Slam women’s singles titles
  • She has been applauded for being openly transparent about her mental health struggles
  • She gave birth to a baby girl just last summer. The father is rapper Cordae
  • She has earned $21 million in prize money so far
  • The video link below shows the final moments of the 2018 US Open championship match between Osaka and Williams – a match fraught with controversy, yet amazing dignity

Other than during the Covid-19 pandemic, the hard-court Brisbane tournament is held annually in January just before the first Grand Slam tournament of the season: the Australian Open.

So, what happened in Brisbane? Did Nadal and Osaka live up to the hype?

After spending almost a year on the sidelines, undergoing surgery and rehab on the psoas tendon in his left hip, it was revealed that Nadal suffered a micro tear on a different muscle at Brisbane and he retired on Sunday morning. He made it to the quarterfinals, succumbing to Australian Jordan Thompson after 3 sets. Nadal later said that he is “not ready to compete at the maximum level in 5-set matches” and will not play at the Australian Open, much to his chagrin.

At Brisbane, Osaka won her first match in straight sets against 28-year-old German Tamara Korpatsch, but suffered a second-round loss to 31-year-old Czech Karolina Pliskova, who was playing for the first time since a left wrist injury curtailed her 2023 season in September. Osaka will be on the courts again at the Australian Open.

“I’ve trained so hard since giving birth, I need to enjoy these moments. I do feel different. I feel sad, but the sadness is me being like, ‘Aww, I wish I could have done better, because I know I’m spending so much time away from (my baby), so I want it to be worth it somehow.” (Naomi Osaka)

Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov claimed his first ATP title in more than 6 years at Brisbane, while World #4 Elena Rybakina captured her 6th career title, defeating #2 Ayrna Sabalenka and putting a stop to her 15 match win streak

The Australian Open will kick off the 2024 Grand Slam calendar. Held from Jan. 14-28, the event takes place in Melbourne. Last year Serbian dominator Novak Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece in the final. The women’s champion was Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated Kazakhstani Elena Rybakina to claim her first ever Grand Slam title. The world’s best tennis players will compete in Melbourne for a significantly increased $58 million USD prize pot. Stay tuned!

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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