Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button
NewsScoresRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastShopPro GearPickleballGear Sale

By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, December 8, 2023


“I definitely want to win more Grand Slams and I guess put in more time in the French Open and Wimbledon, and play the Paris Olympics,” Naomi Osaka told Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Photo credit: William West/Getty

Naomi Osaka knows how lonely life can be at the top.

The former world No. 1 celebrated her maiden major at the 2018 US Open forgoing the typical victory party at a Manhattan hotspot in favor of returning to her hotel room to play video games alone.

More: Nick Kyrgios Joins OnlyFans

When Osaka launches her highly-anticipated return to the pro tour next month in Brisbane, she'll be armed with the spirit of her closest ally.

Osaka says sharing the love—and this comeback journey—traveling the tour with daughter Shai infuses her with inspiration—and the feeling she's playing for something greater than herself.

“I’ve never been a person that’s really good at playing for myself, if that makes sense,” Osaka told Japanese broadcaster NHK in a new interview. “So I like the feeling of having the responsibility of having to take care of Shai and wanting to show her around the world.

"I kind of feel more like I’m playing for her.”

The 26-year-old Osaka gave birth to Shai last July, her first child with rapper Cordae, and suggests while motherhood has provided her with a different perspective on her life and career, her tennis goals remain the same: Win Grand Slam titles.

The explosive Osaka has long been a champion with a big game and grand aspirations: Four of Osaka's seven career titles are Grand Slam championships.

Though Brisbane will be her first WTA match since she defeated Daria Saville at the 2022 Toray Pan Pacific, Osaka believes she has a better understanding of how to apply her skills and aims to master more majors. 

“In the first chapter of my tennis, I kind of got away with just being myself and playing with my instincts," Osaka told NHK. "I think I want to be someone that understands the game a lot more.

“I definitely want to win more Grand Slams and I guess put in more time in the French Open and Wimbledon, and play the Paris Olympics."

In brief training video she's shared on social media channels, Osaka is hitting the ball like the Naomi Osaka you remember. 

Of course, practice sessions can be like fitting room mirrors: everything looks good.

How will Osaka, who candidly shared her struggles with depression and mental health challenges amid the pressures of the pro tour, respond to the rigors of new motherhood while trying to restart her career and rebuild her ranking?

Given a near 16-month sabbatical from the sport she once dominated, how quickly can Osaka regain her match fitness, court sense, confidence and consistency to challenge the elite?

In an ESPN interview during the 2023 US Open, Osaka said she not only intends to play a full schedule in 2024, she aspires to play a more robust schedule than she's played in the past.

One reason Osaka said she's planning to play more this year is she's uncertain what form she will bring at the beginning of her comeback.

"It's definitely way more tournaments than I used to play," Osaka said in an interview with ESPN. "So I think some people will be happy with that."

"Honestly, 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'll set myself up for a very good end of the year."

The two-time Australian Open champion says she's "nervous and also happy and excited” five weeks ahead of her Brisbane return.

Osaka reunited with coach Wim Fissette. People Magazine reported she's apparently split from Cordae and scrubbed him from her social media channels.

If that's true, it adds another challenge for Osaka in navigating co-parenting daughter Shai, who's name Osaka said translates to "God's Gift", while trying to relaunch her career amid the highly-competitive global grind that is the WTA Tour.

The good news for Osaka is she's often played some of her most dynamic tennis Down Under where she's won 18 of her last 20 Australian Open matches.

The 2019 and 2021 AO champion has lost to just two women—Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova in a third-set tiebreaker in the 2022 AO third round—in her last four Melbourne Park appearances.

The good news for tennis fans is if Osaka can return to her former lofty level—or even close to it—she can create rousing rivalries with current Grand Slam champions.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek has played Osaka just twice, splitting those two meetings.

Reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has played Osaka just once with the Japanese power player prevailing in a US Open battle and reigning US Open champion Gauff has played Osaka only four times.

Imagine the type of tennis Osaka, if she can regain her level, can deliver against those exciting shotmakers.

It sounds like Osaka has thought about it and the new mom will be playing to deliver on her major dreams.

It offers us a lot to look forward to for a comeback-packed 2024 season that features the return of Osaka's fellow former world No. 1 champions Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber. 


Latest News