Naomi Osaka announced on Wednesday that she is pregnant and will be taking a break from tennis until 2024.
“One thing I’m looking forward to is for my kid to watch my matches and tell someone, ‘that’s my mom’,” the former world number one wrote on Twitter, adding that she intended to return for the Australian Open in 2024.
Naomi Osaka has not played a tennis match since September and her withdrawal from next week’s Australian Open had raised concerns that the former world number one may never appear on court again.
Osaka’s social media accounts had stayed silent since Tennis Australia tweeted on Sunday that the two-time Melbourne champion would miss the first Grand Slam of the year, giving no reason for her absence.
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Osaka’s posts over the past few months showed her travelling in Europe with her boyfriend, the rapper Cordae, and announcing that her sports management agency had signed up world number two Ons Jabeur.
But there was little evidence of the Japanese player spending time practising on court, fuelling speculation that the four-time Grand Slam champion’s tennis career could be winding down at the age of 25.
Tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, who has authored a biography of Osaka due out later this year, believes she has already taken a “meaningful step back” from the sport and is deliberately keeping quiet.
“I think she might want to be opaque about it because she doesn’t want to put a label on it necessarily,” he told AFP.
“I don’t think she would use the word ‘retiring’, but if she was stepping away from the sport for a while — and it could be for any length of time — I don’t know that she would want to speak that out loud.
“I think she would sense that that would raise a lot of bells and whistles.”