In an interview with ESPN on Wednesday, 25-year-old Naomi Osaka, a former top-ranked tennis player, announced her plans to resume her professional career in 2024.
The athlete, who has won four major championships, recently became a mother to a baby girl in July with her partner, rapper Cordae. She has announced her intention to have a jam-packed schedule in the upcoming year.
“It’s certainly a lot more tournaments than I was accustomed to playing,” Osaka shared with ESPN. “So, I believe some people will be pleased with that.”
“I came to the realization that I am uncertain about how the upcoming year will unfold for me. As a result, I feel it is necessary to gradually ease into it and not rush. Ultimately, my goal is to end the year on a positive note,” stated Osaka.
Osaka, who has not played since the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in September 2022, has previously said she planned to return to tennis in 2024 for the Australian Open, a tournament she has won on two previous occasions.
Someone inquired if Osaka’s time away from tennis caused her to long for it, and she answered with a definite “yes.”
“I have been observing the matches and thinking, ‘I wish I could be playing as well’,” Osaka expressed. “However, I am currently in this position and I am extremely grateful. While I love my daughter dearly, I believe it has ignited a passion within me.”
After experiencing a difficult incident at the 2021 Roland Garros, Osaka stepped back from playing competitive tennis and shared her challenges with mental health in the media. This caused a lot of attention and discussion.
After winning her first major championship in 2018, she later withdrew from the French Open and shared that she had been experiencing prolonged periods of depression.
On Wednesday, Osaka was present at the US Open in New York. She also took part in a mental health forum at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, along with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Dr. Brian Hainline, who is the chairman of the US Tennis Association’s board and the chief medical officer of the NCAA.
Osaka shared that discussing her personal experiences with mental health and becoming a champion for mental health awareness has been a valuable learning experience for her.
“I have a constant drive to learn and grow as a person,” stated Osaka. “During the talk, I gained a lot of knowledge by actively participating.” She added, “I believe my purpose is to bring attention to important issues and remind others that they are not alone.”
I view physical and mental pain as similar. While we have medical professionals to treat physical health, mental health is often not given the same attention. It is important to bring awareness to this issue.
She was questioned about her previous statement where she expressed feeling “isolated” during her pregnancy.
“I am only familiar with the world of tennis,” Osaka stated. “Being away from it for an extended period of time was a new experience for me. The new situation and not being able to train as I wished made me feel like I should just stay at home. It felt like there were many limitations.”