Naomi Osaka exited from the first round of the Australian Open on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6(2) loss to French 16th seed Caroline Garcia.

The former world No. 1 from Japan was making her Grand Slam return after the birth of her first child, a daughter, last July.

Osaka, a two-time champion at Melbourne Park, had not played a major since the 2022 U.S. Open, having taken a sabbatical to prioritize her mental health before becoming a mother.

She received a huge cheer upon entering Rod Laver Arena and had the crowd behind her as she showed glimpses of her best in a convincing comeback performance.

Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts after dropping the opening set during her first-round defeat to Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 15, 2023. (Kyodo). 

Garcia gained the upper hand in the tight battle by securing the match's only break of serve at 2-2 in the first set.

The close second set came down to a tie-break, which saw the Frenchwoman pulling clear before sealing the match when Osaka sent a backhand into the net.

Garcia was full of praise for Osaka after the victory, which sets her up for a second-round meeting with Poland's Magdalena Frech.

"I have a lot of respect for Naomi Osaka as a person and as a player. We all know she's had an amazing career," Garcia said. "She's been away for 15 months and been through a lot. I'm just very glad to see her back."

The four-time Grand Slam winner had returned to the court before the Australian Open at the Brisbane International, where she lost to fellow former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the second round.

In men's singles, Japan's Taro Daniel lost 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to American Christopher Eubanks, while Yosuke Watanuki went down 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.

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