Returning Osaka targets Paris Olympics, more Grand Slam titles

TOKYO – A “nervous” Naomi Osaka has targeted a place at next year’s Paris Olympics and more Grand Slam titles after she makes her eagerly anticipated return to tennis.

The 26-year-old former world number one is set to return to competition at the Brisbane International starting at the end of the month, having not played on tour since September 2022.

The four-time Grand Slam champion gave birth to daughter Shai in July and she has also struggled with her mental health and the pressures of tennis.

She told Japanese broadcaster NHK that she feels “nervous and also happy and excited” as she prepares to return.

And Osaka, who lit the cauldron to open the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, hopes her comeback takes her all the way to next summer’s Paris Games.

“In the first chapter of my tennis I kind of got away with just being myself and playing with my instincts,” she said.

“I think I want to be someone that understands the game a lot more.

“I definitely want to win more Grand Slams and I guess put in more time in the French Open and Wimbledon, and play the Paris Olympics,” she added.

Playing for Japan at the Tokyo Games, where spectators were mostly banned because of Covid, Osaka lost in straight sets in the third round to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

She has won four major titles, triumphing in the 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens, and winning the US Open in 2018 and 2020.

Osaka will make her return to Grand Slam tennis at the Australian Open in January and says she will have a different mindset now that she is a mother.

“I’ve never been a person that’s really good at playing for myself, if that makes sense,” she said.

“So I kind of like the feeling of having the responsibility of having to take care of Shai and wanting to show her around the world.

“I kind of feel more like I’m playing for her.” – AFP