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New mum Osaka’s love for tennis rekindled as she makes comeback

Japan’s Naomi Osaka admitted Saturday she almost gave up tennis but had rekindled her love of the sport after becoming a mother earlier this year as she prepares for a return in Brisbane.

Osaka, 26, stepped away from the game in September 2022, citing mental health concerns following her withdrawal from the second round of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

In her time away, she gave birth to daughter Shai, and did not watch any tennis until last year’s Wimbledon.

Although excited to be back, she conceded that retiring permanently had crossed her mind.

“I would say right after Tokyo for, like, a month maybe I was thinking about retirement because I felt like all my joy went away for the sport,” she said at the season opening Brisbane International.

“I felt like it kind of wasn’t fair, both for the people watching and myself.

“But then I thought, I’ve played tennis since I was three and there’s so many more things that I want to do.”

Osaka said since giving birth her approach to tennis had changed.

“I think in the time I had away, I appreciated the sport a lot more,” she said. “I think definitely becoming a mum changed my mindset a lot. 

“I think I’m a lot more open-minded, a lot more patient, but also I feel a lot stronger physically.”

The four-time Grand Slam champion was awarded a wildcard to the Brisbane event in the lead-up to the Australian Open and will play Germany’s 84th ranked Tamara Korpatsch in the first round.

“I feel definitely I’m nervous, I haven’t played a match in a long time, but I’m competitive so I’m thinking I’m nervous and I want to win,” Osaka said.

“There’s a lot of things that are going on in my head. 

“I think the biggest thing is just walking onto the court and sort of absorbing all the energy and experiencing the atmosphere. For me that is something that I’m definitely going to treasure a lot.”

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