After taking a prolonged hiatus from tennis beginning in 2022, Naomi Osaka has announced that she plans to return to the court in 2024. And she’s bringing other passions with her.
In May 2021, Osaka withdrew from the French Open after becoming the highest paid woman athlete in the world just one year prior. The tennis star cited her absence as a time to work on her mental health — Osaka wrote that she experienced “long bouts of depression” on social media.
“I know where I come from, and I’m so grateful to be here and to be doing the things that I’m doing,” Osaka said. “But for some reason, I just still felt kind of down in the past years of my life.”
Osaka’s most recent tennis match came in September 2022 at the Pan Pacific Open in Japan. Now, 15 months and one childbirth later, she’s announced her plan to return to the tennis court. And along the way, she’s advocating for the destigmatization of mental health and for more paid leave — and more compassion in general — for new mothers.
“I’m fortunate to have the support to go back to work on my own terms, in my own time,” Osaka told InStyle. “So many American parents don’t have that choice, but we all deserve it. It has definitely motivated me to speak up about the lack of paid leave and to advocate for new moms in this country.”
Osaka told InStyle about her other aspirations beyond her tennis and her mental health advocacy, including fashion and storytelling. She attends basketball games in fashionable outfits and sheds light on unseen struggles on her mental health video series, “Can’t Wait to Hear From You,” started by her media company, Hana Kuma.
But she made one thing clear — when she returns to the court, she intends to play like a champion every time. Osaka’s coach, Wim Fissette, best summed up her mindset for her reemergence into the world of tennis.
“It’s not about coming back,” Fissette said. “She really wants to see how good she can possibly be.”
❤️ pic.twitter.com/m2NPZPTywz— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) December 15, 2023