Naomi Osaka said in an ESPN interview that she’s planning to return to professional tennis next year.
Over a month after giving birth todaughter Shai, Osaka, 25, told the sports outlet Wednesday that she’s aiming for a packed schedule in 2024.
“It’s definitely way more tournaments than I used to play,” said Osaka, who hasn’t played since withdrew from the Tokyo Open last year. “So, I think some people will be happy with that.”
During her pregnancy announcement earlier this year, the tennis star said she would be at the Australian Open in 2024. She confirmed she’d be back for that tournament and said the uptick in the amount of tournaments is to “ease into” pro tennis play.
“I think it’s because I realized that I don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me… So at the very least, I’m going to set myself up for a very good end of the year,” she added.
As the U.S. Open heads into its final week, Osaka also voiced missing the sport.
“I’ve been watching matches and I’m like, ‘I kind of wish I was playing too,'” she told ESPN. “But I’m in this position now and I’m very grateful. I really love my daughter a lot, but I think it really fueled a fire in me.”
“Every person is unique in this world and that’s something that no one can take away, and you just — I don’t want to be corny, but like, you just got [to] appreciate that and know that you’re special, and I don’t think people say that enough,” Osaka said during the panel.
Olympic superstar Michael Phelps and surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy were also part of the forum.
oOsaka has won four Grand Slam titles in her young career. At one point, she was ranked as the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world. In recent years, she has also dealt with injuries and spoke about her mental health struggles amid her decision towithdraw from the 2021 French Open.