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Osaka's comeback ends with her earliest Open exit

Two-time champion Naomi Osaka has made an early exit from the Australian Open. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Naomi Osaka's return to the top of women's tennis has hit a speed-bump with the former world No.1 bowing out in the first round of the Australian Open for the first time.

The Japan star has won the title twice at Melbourne Park, in 2019 and 2021, with her previous worst result a second round elimination back in 2017.

But French 16th seed Caroline Garcia handed the 26-year-old a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) defeat in their opening clash on Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.

Despite the scoreline Osaka can take heart with her performance - returning to tennis at the Brisbane International just six months after the birth of her daughter, with the Open her first major since the US Open in 2022.

Caroline Garcia
France's Caroline Garcia delivered 13 aces as she put out Naomi Osaka in the opening round. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Veteran Garcia, who reached the fourth round of the Open last year, claimed an early break in the first set and never looked back

The pair went toe to toe in the a high-quality second, with Osaka finding her range and rhythm as the match went into a tie-break.

While Osaka opened with an ace, world No.19 Garcia lifted her own service game to keep her rival at bay.

She finished the match with 13 aces and 89 per cent of first serve points won while hit 34 winners to Osaka's 20.

Four-time grand slam champion Osaka said she felt a bit "hesitant" at times which she put down to her time out of the game.

She said she couldn't help but be disappointed by the result.

"The competitor in me is not happy that I'm not winning these matches (but) I think I just need to work hard and play a lot more matches and then hopefully my dreams will come true," Osaka said.

"I thought it was a really good match for me and I felt like I did the best that I could possibly do.

"I mean, I still feel like a bit disappointed - I don't know if I'm disappointed in myself - I don't think that's possible because I really feel like I couldn't have done more with the circumstances. 

"I thought I kept doing better as the match went on."

Garcia was full of praise for her opponent and the standard of her tennis so soon after giving birth.

"She's had an amazing career. She was away for 15 months. She's been through a lot," Garcia said.

"She's a great girl and she's done so much for our tennis in the last few years. 

"Six months after giving birth she's playing amazing already. We have to watch out."

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