Naomi Osaka's new mentality: "For an athlete, time is precious"

The Japanese tennis player spoke at a press conference on the eve of her first round at the Australian Open, sharing her wisdom

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Naomi Osaka's new mentality: "For an athlete, time is precious"
© Graham Denholm / Stringer Getty Images Sport

After missing the entire 2023 season because she was pregnant, the Japanese Naomi Osaka played the Brisbane tournament, where she was eliminated by Karolina Pliskova. More than a year after the announcement of her pregnancy and the birth of little Shai, with the rapper Cordae, the 4-time Slam champion will return to play a Slam tournament a year after the last time.

And at the press conference, Naomi shared all her emotion, also showing her acquired wisdom and maturity. "Coming back here makes me so nostalgic. Entering the locker room and having the same locker, or being able to play on Rod Laver Arena, knowing that I won twice here, these things make me happy. I would love to win here again. Playing in Brisbane was a great test. I honestly think both of my games were at a higher level than they indicate. Especially against Karolina. I don't consider her ranking when I play against her. She is a former number 1. It was a good match against Amanda too. It was really fun playing against them," she explained.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Graham Denholm / Stringer Getty Images Sport

Compared to her last appearance here, Naomi is now mother, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, of little Shai. "It's been hard leaving her. She's learning things while I'm gone. I hope she doesn't learn to crawl before I get back. I'm definitely sad, but I feel like it's a selfish sadness because I want her to be here. But it's better for her to be at home, being so little. Coming back after 15 months wasn't easy. Even without having dealt with, for example, post-pregnancy, I am usually very sore at the first tournament back. But my body is reacting quite well and I'm happy. I've taken a lot of breaks over the years. I think I realized that, being an athlete, time is really precious," explained Osaka.

Naomi speaks with wisdom and maturity

"After having Shai, I think I went through the struggle of getting back to where I wanted to be and it was incredibly tough. I now have a positive and grateful mindset. I'm happy to be here. I have many positive memories here as I said. But I can't expect too much from myself, being the second tournament I've played, especially facing the best players in the world," she told.

Speaking of great players, Caroline Garcia will be her opponent in the first round: "It's definitely going to be difficult, obviously. She's a top seed. Every time I play with her, I always think she's an incredible player. In a way I'm happy to play against a top seed, I hope that if I manage to overcome them, the next match won't be so difficult. I think right now I really need to play a lot of games and that will probably affect me. My calendar is pretty busy with tournaments I want to play. My body is very different than before Shai. I think I had to adapt my playing style too."

Naomi Osaka Australian Open