Tennis Star Naomi Osaka Leaving IMG to Start Own Sports Agency 'EVOLVE'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 11, 2022

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 01: Naomi Osaka of Japan attends her press conference during the Mutua Madrid Open 2022 at La Caja Magica on May 01, 2022, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images)
Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Tennis star Naomi Osaka is moving on from IMG as her representation and will launch her own sports agency, EVOLVE, according to Sportico's Kurt Badenhausen.

"I've spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn't what was expected or traditional," Osaka said of the move. "Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way."

At EVOLVE, Osaka will be working alongside Stuart Duguid, who was her agent at IMG.

The 24-year-old has accomplished a lot in her playing career. She's a four-time Grand Slam champion with over $20 million in total prize earnings.

What she has achieved off the court might have surpassed what she has done on it, though. Badenhousen noted Osaka collected more endorsement money over the last year than any other female athlete:

Kurt Badenhausen @kbadenhausen

Top endorsement earnings last 12 mos:<br><br>1. LeBron: $90M<br>2. Federer: $85M<br>3. Tiger: $65M<br>4. Ronaldo: $55M<br>5. Naomi: $52M<br>6. Messi: $50M <a href="https://t.co/wSsxDdumCK">https://t.co/wSsxDdumCK</a>

He also explained how Osaka's move isn't uncommon for athletes who have reached the top of their respective sports:

"Athletes have left big agencies to strike out on their own for decades. Jack Nicklaus left IMG in 1970 to launch Golden Bear. LeBron James started LRMR for his marketing work in 2006 and entrusted close friend Rich Paul with his on-court contracts, while Maverick Carter handled business off the court. Roger Federer began Team8 in 2013 with his long-time agent Tony Godsick, while golfer Rory McIlroy started his own firm the same year. Rafael Nadal decamped from IMG a year later with his agent Carlos Costa. Kevin Durant and Rich Kleinman founded Thirty Five Ventures in 2016 to operate the business of the four-time scoring champion."

Tennis is an unforgiving sport. The longevity of Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is the exception rather than the rule.

In January, Ash Barty was celebrating her first Australian Open title. By March, she was retiring from the sport at age 25 while seemingly in her prime playing years, citing the mental and physical grind of performing at an elite level.

Osaka took a hiatus in 2021, withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon, in order to focus on her mental health.

Launching her own sports agency is another way in which she's guaranteeing she'll maintain a major platform whenever she hangs up the racket for good.