Osaka’s gestation: tennis desire and hunger for Grand Slams
When a pregnancy changes your career and injects you the dose of motivation you were missing. “I want to win eight more Grand Slams”.
Measured by the most important yardstick, the major titles, Naomi Osaka is the most successful tennis player of the last five years. Perhaps the success that led the Japanese-Haitian to lose the taste and desire to win. Overwhelmed, she wanted to take a break from the sport.
Osaka was not interested in playing at Wimbledon as it didn’t awarded points, she did not win matches at Roland Garros neither the US Open, and had a year full of injuries. She withdrew from the Australian Open last January without further explanation, giving rise to much speculation about her metal health and tennis burnout.
No dramas. Her withdraw from Melbourne was due to her pregnancy, which at the time was about four months. She will give birth in the middle of this year to a baby whose sex only is known by her and will be a surprise for her partner, North American rapper Cordae. And she says that her pregnancy is already taking he career to a new path.
It has taken her from doubts to conviction. From demotivation, to unbridled hunger in a tennis player who has admitted to suffering long periods of depression since she lifted her first major title in New York. Osaka is renewed and, in an interview in English with a Japanese journalist on Japanese TV, she gave some interesting statements as not has been heard from her in recent times.
“I was lost and didn’t know what I wanted to achieve…I found out (that I was pregnant) and it was like, ‘ok, I’m definitely going to play better after this. I’m going to work harder to be the best player I can become. I’m playing in Australia next year. I’ll have six months to prepare,” she confirmed.
“I’m a very competitive person, but last year the challenges intimidated me,” she admitted. While she is expecting her first child, there seems to be no more traces of that adverse feeling. Osaka wants to triple her Grand Slam trophies.
Naomi’s motivation had a big question mark last year, says journalist Ben Rothenberg, who will publish the tennis player’s biography in January, just for her comeback: “She wasn’t giving enough to commit to getting the results she wanted.”
“Her first ever first-round loss in the US Open, her home tournament as she grew up in New York, was for sure very painfull. And then comes her pregnancy, which she takes as a reset period in her career, this moment when she can start a new chapter, a rebirth for a new start and new commintment. And today we see her surprisingly putting numbers in her comments. Eight Grand Slams is a very high goal, which means she feels very confident,” Rothenberg tells CLAY.
The former world number one is a two-time Australian Open and US Open champion, and her ambitions go beyond the hard courts. She wants to dominate on the clay at Roland Garros, although being more rigorous with her statements, when the prize for winning at the Phillippe Chatrier will be a medal instead of a trophy: “I want to win the Olympics next year. I’m very excited to get back on the courts.”
Osaka was one of the top protagonists of the last Olympic Games. In a gray Tokyo, with no spectators and very restricted by the pandemic, she was the athlete (the first tennis player in history) in charge of lighting the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony. Her tennis did not go her way. She lost in the second round. “It meant a lot to win here, but there was a lot of pressure and I didn’t know how to deal with it,” Japan’s national icon admitted at the time. She wants her revenge in Paris 2024.