No.1 enemy: Who’s out to crash Ash’s party
NAOMI Osaka has her sights on Ashleigh Barty's No.1 ranking, after rediscovering her hunger in a topsy-turvy season that began with an Australian Open title.
The Japanese talent soared to top spot last January thanks to her US and Australian Open double.
But she hit a wall soon after, cycling through two coaches and flopping in the final three majors before finding late form to finish the year at No.3 in the world.
She will join a stellar field headed by local hope Barty at the Brisbane International from January 6, and announced her arrival in typical cool style by taking a helicopter ride over the city yesterday.
The 22-year-old was one of four different women's major winners last year - a season that Barty eventually owned thanks to her consistency across all surfaces.
Osaka wants to take a stranglehold on the tour though, and said countering Barty's all-court craft was vital to that.
"That's the mentality going into this year," she said of her intention to jump clear of a crowded pack. "Last year I had to figure a lot of stuff out and a lot of people could see that, and towards the end of the year is when things started clicking for me.
"I love Australia ... so I'm excited to start here."
Osaka said French Open champion Barty would prove a handful this year.
"She has a lot of variety, her serve's really pinpoint and she has the best slice on tour," Osaka said.