Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka plans to return to tennis in time for the 2024 Australian Open, saying Wednesday her break from the sport “really fueled a fire in me”.
The 25-year-old Japanese star gave birth to daughter Shai in July and hasn’t played since September 2022, when she made her last tournament appearance at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.
In an interview with ESPN at the US Open on Wednesday, Osaka replied “yes” when asked if she would be in Melbourne at the start of next year.
Osaka, who participated in a mental health forum with swimming legend Michael Phelps at Flushing Meadows, said she was anticipating making a full-time return to the women’s tour in 2024.
“It’s definitely way more tournaments than I used to play,” said Osaka.
“I think it’s because I realise like I don’t know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me,” she explained.
“I don’t know the level of play and I think I kind of have to ease into it, so at the very least I’m going to set myself up for a very good end of the year.”
The top ranked player in the world in 2019, Osaka — who grew up in the United States — is now ranked 603rd.
She has won four Grand Slam singles titles with triumphs in the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021 and the US Open in 2018 and 2020.