Naomi Osaka has 'itch' to compete, plans busy '24 schedule

League: Tennis

Posted on: 06 Sep, 2023 at 10:05 PM

Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka said she has the "itch" to compete, although her return to the WTA Tour won't come until 2024.

Osaka, 25, gave birth to her first child, daughter Shai, in July, but has already resumed training with an eye on next year.

"I'm doing a lot, which I think shocks a lot of people," Osaka told ESPN at the U.S. Open on Wednesday. "But for me, I was kind of training during the pregnancy, too, so it's not hard on my body at all."

Osaka, who has been open about her struggles with mental health, was at the U.S. Open to speak on a panel along with former Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. She also took time to watch some of the action at Flushing Meadows.

"I've been watching matches and I've kind of wished that I was playing, too," she said. "But I'm in this position now, and I'm very grateful. I really love my daughter a lot, but I think that it really fueled a fire in me."

That fire has led to a busy schedule for Osaka, who plans to be at the first major of 2024 at the Australian Open in January. Osaka won the title in Melbourne in 2019 and 2021, but the former No. 1-ranked player in the world has modest expectations upon her return to competition.

"It's definitely way more tournaments than I used to play, so I think some people will be happy with that," she said. "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 how the level of play, and I think that I have to kind of ease into it.

"So at the very least, I'm going to set myself up for a very good end of the year."

Osaka said she has watched the success several players have had recently in their returns after becoming mothers, and she's inspired to compete with Shai watching.

"It would be cool if she was proud of me," Osaka said. "And I also just want her to be old enough to see me playing on the court and being, 'Wow, that's my mom!' "

--Field Level Media