Naomi Osaka has decided to invest in Pickleball, like many other sports stars and beyond. The Japanese star has been the highest-paid female athlete in the world for three consecutive years, with an estimated $59.2 million in earnings in 2022.
Even NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant did it. Among the new investors should also be Nick Kyrgios, NBA super agent Rich Paul, billionaire Soichiro Minami and Matthew Pritzker, a member of the billionaire Pritzker family.
Major League Pickleball, which had eight teams for its inaugural 2021 season grew to 12 in 2022, will add 12 more franchises in 2023 as the sport rapidly spreads.
Pickleball, a sport that's often described as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, was invented in 1965 and has gained a following among older adults because it requires only short bursts of running.
But in recent years, it has attracted a much larger fan base. Major League Pickleball was one of three pickleball leagues competing for players, events, and dollars, along with the Professional Pickleball Association and the Association of Pickleball Professionals.
It was certainly not a 2022 to remember for Naomi Osaka who she failed to triumph in any tournament in which she took part. In fact, the Japanese is in 41st place in the world rankings, a far cry from the golden years that had seen her excel in the Slams (four slams, two at the Australian Open and two at the US Open) and consequently lead the women's rankings.
In 2021, after refusing to attend the post-race press conference at the Roland Garros due to mental health issues, she later decided not to take part in interviews anymore. The Japanese spoke again to the media during a program last week and has now instead posted a thought to Net-A-Porter talking about how difficult it was for her to face the press after losing a game.
She wrote: "One of the hardest parts it was, right after a loss, going to the press room and talking to the media, answering questions about why I had played poorly or what I could have done better, and being asked how it feels to have just lost the game. Neither of these conversations are pleasant, but especially not after a loss. It's like pouring salt into a wound."