Naomi Osaka announces pregnancy, future return to tennis
Naomi Osaka is pregnant and plans to return to tennis by the January 2024 Australian Open, her agent confirmed.
Osaka, 25 years old and a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, shared a sonogram dated Dec. 12 on social media on Wednesday.
“One thing I’m looking forward to is for my kid to watch one of my matches and tell someone, ‘that’s my mom’, haha,” Osaka posted. “2023 will be a year that’ll be full of lessons for me and I hope I’ll see you guys in the start of the next one cause I’ll be at Aus 2024.”
Osaka, ranked 47th in the world, last played in September. She can freeze her ranking through her absence to remain eligible for direct entry into tournaments upon her return.
Last Sunday, Australian Open organizers said that Osaka, the Open champion in 2019 and 2021, will not be playing at the major tournament that starts next week. A reason was not given.
In Osaka’s most recent match, she withdrew during the second round of September’s Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. She won her first round match at that tournament when Australia’s Daria Saville withdrew after one game with a knee injury.
Osaka won one completed match since May and was beaten in the first round of her three previous tournaments, including the U.S. Open at which she also is a two-time champion.
Last week she posted pictures on social media of a trip to Europe with her United States rapper boyfriend Cordae and had been considered unlikely to play in the first Grand Slam of the season.
Osaka took a mental health break after missing the 2021 French Open, lit the Tokyo Olympic cauldron and later said she had been struggling with depression and anxiety for several years.
“These few months away from the sport has really given me a new love and appreciation for the game I’ve dedicated my life to,” Osaka posted Wednesday. “I realize that life is so short and I don’t take any moments for granted, everyday is a new blessing and adventure.”
There is a history of major tennis champions returning from pregnancy to have more success. Belgian Kim Clijsters retired at age 23 in 2007, had daughter Jada at age 24 and returned to competition at age 26, winning in her third tournament back, the U.S. Open. She repeated at the U.S. Open the next year and won her fourth and final major at the 2011 Australian Open.
Serena Williams finished runner-up at four majors after her life-threatening pregnancy and childbirth at age 35 in 2017.
Australian Evonne Goolagong had a daughter at age 25, then won the Australian Open seven months later. Three years after that, she became the first (and so far only) mom to win Wimbledon in the Open Era.
Margaret Court had her first child at age 29 in 1972, then won three majors the following year.
Ash Barty, who won the French Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open from 2019-22, announced last week she was pregnant. She retired last year while holding the No. 1 ranking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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