Naomi Osaka hits the practice court to prepare for tilt at Olympic gold - in pictures

Japanese world No 2 carries the hopes of host nation and will make return to competition following mid-season hiatus

Of the thousands of athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games, few will be generating as much interest as Naomi Osaka.

The Japanese tennis superstar is one of the poster athletes of the Games and local hopes are high that the four-time Grand Slam champion can deliver a gold medal for the host nation.

Osaka, 23, will return to competition for the first time since withdrawing after the first round at the French Open for mental health reasons, having previously announced she would shun media obligations in Paris.

Following a mid-season hiatus that saw her skip Wimbledon, Osaka has been hard at work to be ready for the Olympics and on Tuesday took part in an intense training session on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park.

Osaka's hopes of winning gold at her home Olympics have no doubt been boosted by the absence of a number of high-profile tennis players from the Games. Serena Williams, Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep, and Victoria Azarenka have all opted out, while Coco Gauff was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19.

However, there is still plenty of competition left in the draw. World No 1 and Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty will lead Australia's charge, world No 3 Aryna Sabalenka represents Belarus, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova and Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova ensure a strong team for Czech Republic, while Iga Swiatek will be a leading medal hope for Poland.

Updated: July 20th 2021, 10:18 AM
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