Former WTA No. 1 is plotting her comeback to tennis in the upcoming 2024 season and disclosed that she intends to play a heavier schedule than in recent seasons.
The Japanese tennis star has been out of action since last September when she played one match at her home tournament in Tokyo but pulled out from the event due to abdominal pain. Osaka would shut down her season to focus on rehab and getting herself in excellent shape for the subsequent year.
Ahead of the 2023 Australian Open, Osaka shared a life update to the tennis world, that she was pregnant and would be taking a break from tennis. She announced that she will return to the sport in 2024. Osaka and her American boyfriend, rapper Cordae, welcomed their first child in July.
She made headlines when days after giving birth, Osaka began training, with a video showing the former No. 1 being put on her paces. In an interview with ESPN, Osaka revealed her plans for what her season would look like next year.
Osaka's last tournament win was the 2021 Australian Open, and it is increasingly likely she'll play a few warm-up tournaments leading to the 2024 Australian Open. Having dropped outside the world's Top 500 in the rankings, she qualifies for a protected ranking entry next season.
The 25-year-old admits she intends to play a packed schedule in order to fine-tune her game, but most importantly because she's unsure of her fitness levels due to lack of match play for the past year.
"It's definitely way more tournaments than I used to play. So I think some people will be happy with that. I think it's because I realized that I don't know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me. I don't know the level of play and I think I have to ease into it. So at the very least, I'll set myself up for a very good end of the year."
"I've been watching matches and I'm like, 'I wish I was playing too. But I'm in this position now and I'm very grateful. I really love my daughter a lot, but it has really fueled a fire in me."