Naomi Osaka on Future in Tennis: 'I Know I'm Gonna Play Again...Probably Soon'

Adam WellsSeptember 25, 2021

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, returns a shot to Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the third round of the US Open tennis championships, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Three weeks after announcing she was stepping away from tennis for the time being, Naomi Osaka addressed her potential return. 

Appearing on HBO's The Shop, Osaka said she's certain about playing again and "probably soon."

“For sure I love the sport," she explained. "I know I’m gonna play again, probably soon because I kind of have that itch again. But it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I’d just have the joy of being back on the court. Just to, like, you know, that I’m doing it for myself.” 

After losing to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the U.S. Open on Sept. 3, the 23-year-old said through tears at her press conference that she needed to take a step back. 

"I feel like for me, recently, like when I win, I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad," Osaka said. "I don't think that's normal."

Speaking on the show, Osaka noted it's important for her "to feel like I’m playing for myself" when she returns to the court: 

"And I started to feel like that power was being taken away from me. And the way that I felt, like, I wasn’t playing to make myself happy and I was more concerned about … what would people say about me.
"I used to love the competition and just being competitive. Like if I were to play a long match, the longer it was the more fun it was for me. And then I just started to feel—recently—the longer it was the more stressed out I became. But I just needed a break to go within myself."

Osaka took a two-month break earlier this year after withdrawing from the French Open prior to her second-round match against Ana Bogdan. Her decision came after saying before the tournament began that she was going to skip the post-match press conferences. 

NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ @naomiosaka

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The four Grand Slam tournaments responded in a statement, saying Osaka would be fined if she didn't take part in the press conferences. 

Osaka made her return to competition at the Olympics in July. The Japanese star was one of the torchbearers at the Tokyo Games. She also played in the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open before taking a sabbatical. 

The WTA has four events remaining in 2021 before the end of the season. The 2022 Australian Open is scheduled to begin Jan. 17.