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, and recently became a mother to a baby girl with her boyfriend, rapper Cordae, shared that she intends to have a packed schedule for the upcoming year.
Osaka stated to ESPN that she now participates in significantly more tournaments than before, which may please some individuals.
“I believe it’s because I’ve come to the realization that I am uncertain about how the start of the year will unfold for me. I am unsure about the level of competition and I feel that I need to gradually adapt to it. Therefore, my goal is to ensure a strong finish to the year,” stated Osaka.
In September 2022, Osaka participated in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, but has not played since then. She has stated her intention to make a comeback to tennis in 2024 for the Australian Open, a tournament she has previously won twice.
Osaka was inquired about whether her tennis hiatus caused her to long for it, and she promptly replied with a resounding “absolutely.”
Osaka expressed, “As I watched the matches, I couldn’t help but wish I was playing as well.” She acknowledged her current position and expressed gratitude for it. She also shared that her love for her daughter has motivated and inspired her.
In 2021, Osaka temporarily stepped back from professional tennis and openly discussed her mental health challenges after a well-known incident. This occurred during a mandatory press conference at Roland Garros, where she appeared visibly overwhelmed and emotional.
Afterwards, she withdrew from the French Open and shared that she had been struggling with depression since winning her first major tournament in 2018.
On Wednesday, Osaka was present at the US Open in New York and took part in a mental health forum at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She was joined by Michael Phelps, a legendary US Olympic swimmer, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, and Dr. Brian Hainline, the chairman of the US Tennis Association’s board and chief medical officer for NCAA.
Osaka shared that discussing her personal journey with mental health and becoming an advocate for mental health awareness has been a valuable learning experience for her.
“I constantly strive to learn and grow as an individual,” stated Osaka. “During the discussion, I gained valuable insights through actively participating.” She explained, “My responsibility is to bring attention to important issues and reassure individuals that they are not alone.”
I view physical and mental pain as similar. While we have doctors to address physical health, mental health is often not given the same attention. Therefore, it’s important to raise awareness about the importance of mental health.
She was questioned about her previous statement in which she expressed feeling “lonely” during her pregnancy.
“I am most familiar with the world of tennis,” stated Osaka. “Being separated from it for a prolonged period was a new experience for me. The unfamiliar circumstances and the inability to train as desired made me feel like I was confined to my home. It felt like there were many limitations.”