The former world number one and four-time Grand Slam champion has dropped to 48 in the women’s tennis world rankings after a miserable run that saw her crash in the first round of her last three tournaments.
The Japanese 24-year-old has not won a title since last year’s Australian Open and is hampered by an injury this season.
But Osaka hopes to set the record straight at the WTA event in Tokyo, where she is the defending champion, albeit from three years ago, as the tournament returns for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.
She will face stiff competition from a field that includes US Open semi-finalist Caroline Garcia of France, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and world number four from Spain, Paula Badosa.
“This year wasn’t the best year for me, but I learned a lot about myself,” Osaka said, adding that she was “lucky to be healthy.”
“Life has ups and downs, and this year was more down than up, but overall I’m pretty happy with where I am now.”
Osaka has been out of the top 10 all year, having endured first-round defeats at both the French and US Opens.
She withdrew from Wimbledon with an Achilles tendon injury after initially considering skipping the tournament because no ranking points would be awarded.
Osaka admitted her fall from the top of the sport was hard to handle.
“It was a little difficult at the beginning, just because I feel like I should be somewhere where I’m clearly not at the moment,” she said.
“I think for me it’s more about being at peace with myself. I know I’m here for a reason.”
Osaka said she was looking forward to playing for Japanese fans again after competing behind closed doors in the Tokyo Olympics last year, but that she would “have to rely more on my forehand” to rebuild her confidence after her return. bad season.
She starts her campaign against Australian No. 55 Daria Saville in the first round.
Osaka paid tribute to tennis legend Serena Williams, who was retiring after the US Open, saying she had “got over to fill people’s shoes”.
“I don’t think you can ever do that, because everyone is unique, and we’re all forging our own paths and we’re all on our own journeys,” Osaka said.
“It’s really unbelievable what she’s done for this sport and beyond. Just watching her as a businesswoman is really cool.”