Tennis star Osaka is back, but coming back after pregnancy isn’t easy yet

Many tennis fans are eagerly awaiting the return of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka. The Japanese, who is only 26 years old, has not played a match since September 2022. Even before that, things were tough for a while. He suffered from depression and suffered from anxiety attacks and injuries.

Earlier this year, she finally received positive news: pregnancy. Now she’s given birth to her daughter, Shai, and she’s ready for her first tournament in almost a year and a half: the WTA tournament in Brisbane.

Osaka hopes to do well again at the Grand Slams in the future and also wants to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris next year. He describes his return as the second chapter of his career. Some top players have made comebacks after giving birth, but not every tennis player chooses to do so.

“Giving birth relieves pressure”

Former world number four Kiki Bertens became pregnant after her career. She quit after the Tokyo 2021 Games and gave birth to a son about nine months later. That’s why Bertens, 32, respects the players returning at the highest level.

Bertens: “It’s great that so many women are coming back after pregnancy. It requires a lot of physical work, but Osaka is still young. I’m so excited to see how you’ll achieve this. I think it will take at least some time. “You have to take away a lot of pressure because the most important thing is your family.”

Osaka posted the following message on X earlier this month: She thanked her fans and said she was looking forward to “the second chapter of our tennis journey together”:

The latter was also confirmed by Osaka, who revealed in Japanese media that motherhood helped her think differently when playing games. “I’ve never been particularly good at playing for myself. “Now I play for my daughter.”

There are many examples of tennis players recovering strongly after pregnancy. Like Belgian Kim Clijsters. She won the US Open in 2009, sixteen months after giving birth to her first child. She became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament since Australian Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 1980.

Williams led the way

Former tennis star Marcella Mesker says conditions for players wanting to return after pregnancy improved significantly a few years ago. “Great strides have been made, especially after Serena Williams’ comeback in 2018.”

Williams, who retired her tennis racket completely, caused a stir when she went on the court wearing a catsuit specially designed for her after the birth of her daughter Olympia. This outfit sparked huge opposition in the tennis world.

However, following Williams’ controversial return, the WTA, the organization behind the international women’s tour, also granted players access to a protected ranking in a total of twelve tournaments in the first three years after pregnancy. This ensures your participation.

“Before that there was nothing. Then the players had to come back as if they were injured,” says Mesker. “They were actually punished for wanting children. But Serena said: Pregnancy is not the same as an injury.

“Secondary employment conditions”

However, there are still steps to be taken. “The main reason for this is ‘part-time working conditions’. As a mother, you want to go to tournaments with your child and then you have to keep the children busy during games and training. “This needs to be better regulated,” says Mesker.

“Childcare is not a problem at mixed tournaments like the Grand Slams. There is no problem there because many male players also come to these tournaments with their children. “This particularly affects smaller WTA tournaments.”

Better facilities could make it easier for tennis players to have to wait until the end of their careers to get pregnant. Like in Osaka. Also making a comeback in Australia is three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber.

A few months ago, Caroline Wozniacki returned after becoming a mother. “Everything is fine for the fans and sponsors,” says Mesker. “Iga Swiatek (world number one, editor’s note) cannot carry the tour alone. “It could be a great year for the WTA Tour with some big names returning.”

Source: NOS