When tennis star Naomi Osaka announced she was pregnant earlier this year, it was also the end of her 2023 season. She and her boyfriend, rapper Cordae welcomed a daughter, Shai, in July. Now the 25-year-old two-time Australian Open and U.S. Open winner says she’ll return to the sport next year in Australia .
In an interview with ESPN‘s Chris McKendry at the U.S. Open currently taking place in Queens, N.Y., Osaka says she misses tennis.
“I’ve been watching matches and I’m like, ‘I wish I was playing too,’” Osaka said. “But I’m in this position now and I’m very grateful. I really love my daughter a lot, but I think it really fueled a fire in me.”
Osaka hasn’t played since September 2022 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. She was at the U.S. Open to participate on a panel on mental health, where she was joined by Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Dr. Brian Hainline, the chairman of the USTA board and the chief medical officer for the NCAA.
Osaka has been open about her mental health challenges. In 2021, she revealed that she’d been dealing with depression since 2018, when she won the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title.
“Physical pain and mental pain are sort of the same to me,” she told ESPN. “We have doctors for physical health but when we talk about mental health it’s not as well received, so just raising awareness on that.”
Osaka says that motherhood has precipitated an important change in her life.
“I’m more strategic with my time,” she said. “There can’t be any wasted minutes. but other than that I think I’m more careful about how I present myself when I know that there’s someone….I don’t know if she’s doing it yet, but when I know that someone is consciously watching me. I’ve learned that I picked up so many things from my parents so she’s obviously going to do the same thing.”
Osaka, who hit with tennis legends Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf during her pregnancy, has returned to training, documenting some of it on her Instagram account. She says she will return to play the Australian Open next year and will play more than she has in the past to try to shake off some rust after the time off.
“It’s definitely way more tournaments than I used to play,” she said. “So, I think some people will be happy with that.”
She added, “I think it’s because I realized that I don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me. I don’t know the level of play and I think I have to ease into it. So at the very least, I’m going to set myself up for a very good end of the year.”
Watch the full interview below:
Naomi Osaka Confirms She’s Returning To Tennis In 2024 was originally published on cassiuslife.com