Naomi Osaka Is Chilling Out, Enjoying Life & Gearing Up For A Healthy & Explosive Return To The Tennis Courts…Some Day

Earlier this month, Naomi Osaka quietly dropped out of the women’s Top 10 for the first time since winning the 2018 U.S. Open title. Osaka is now 12th after withdrawing from the 2021 French Open and then missing Wimbledon to focus on her mental health. 

When we reflect on her career years from now, this interval will definitely be a turning point in how she decided to take control of her life going forward.

Rankings aside, Osaka is still the No. 1 draw in the sport, and when she revisits the court expect a quick return to the top of the game.

Finding Peace

After a whirlwind 2020-21 that saw her acheive enormous celebrity and financial success and then battle mental health challenges and uncharacteristic losses in major tournaments and the Olympics, the Japanese-Haitian tennis player decided to take some R&R in September and step away from the game. 

It’s hard to survive when everyone wants a piece of you. She’s the pride of Japan, Haiti and Black women in tennis (along with the Williams Sisters). A role model for a generation of girls and her words and actions have great impact.

The cultural tug of war and complex dynamic between Japanese, American and Haitian fans regarding how Osaka identifies racially, also takes its toll on her.

Osaka hasn’t gone into a bubble and disappeared. She’s still promoting her various brands, enjoying the fruits of her labor and contributing her resources to youth in underserved areas across the globe. 

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Osaka’s immersed herself in life away from tennis for the first time. She’s enjoying her celebrity and the many brand ambassador opportunities that have come her way, while gaining so much more than she ever lost by being honest about her emotions and mental struggles.

Exposing her humanity in order to liberate herself and so many athletes and people across the world who are struggling with similar issues out of the microscope of the public eye. 

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A Return To Tennis? 

The richest women’s athlete in the world is just 23, but she’s taken control of her life with a middle-aged adult’s confidence and desperation. The four-time Grand Slam winner recently said she will return to tennis soon after she gets the “itch” to play again. 

Her support system is in the millions, especially on social media, but the tennis world remains split about how Osaka has handled her tennis career in the past six months.

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It’s not a knock on her. Those critics of her decisions selfishly want her to compete in every tournament and fill weekends with historic feats that can distract the average fan from their mundane everyday lives.

Diehard tennis fans and supporters of Black women achieving great feats have gotten spoiled by Osaka’s early dominance and grace and passive demeanor. Osaka’s become a woman in that time, more capable of expressing herself and more aware of her worth as a person and the boundaries she doesn’t need to cross just to please others.  

The respect she’s garnered from her fellow athletes borders on reverence. 

Role Model 

Nelly Korda, the 23-year-old, No.1-ranked women’s golfer in the world has won three times this year on the LPGA Tour and is experiencing a rise in fame and expectations of her own. On the “Fair Game” podcast with 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott, Korda said that Osaka is a model on how to handle the overwhelming demands of global fame at a young age. 

“I mean you also learn from like, other people, I mean, like Naomi Osaka,” said Korda as reported by golfchannel.com.  “You don’t even know what is gonna happen with the girl that just won the U.S. Open (18-year-old Emma Raducanu). She has all this fame and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you know, a prime example is Osaka. She just shot up into stardom, and it’s super hard for her.”

Osaka shot to stardom after shocking Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open Final. Been there done that. Tennis is the furthest thing from her mind right now.   

Living Life For Real 

She’s currently on vacation in Italy and posted some new photos of herself standing on a street in Rome. The Instagram offering reveal her toned legs. Osaka is draped in a blue, plaid dress and luminous red boots that accentuate her perfectly-sculpted leg muscles.

 

Photo: Naomi Osaka/IG

Fashion is obviously one of her passions. With enough money in the bank and a crossover appeal that allows her to move in any space and create wealth, Osaka has shown an artistic side that wasn’t as easy for her to capture on the tennis courts. She often looked awkward and hesitant in interviews, as if she couldn’t believe she was in this position. 

Another pivotal moment in her maturation was when she wore the seven masks in seven days bearing the names of Black victims of systemic violence, en route to winning the 2020 US Open.

She handled the interviews like a vet and appeared to be happy despite so much turmoil in the country.

“…watching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake (to name just a few) in the summer broke my heart. I am proud of my U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues,” Osaka said in a TV interview. 

These days, the founder of Kinlo Skin — just one of her many entrepreneurial gems — is owning everything in her life and these photos prove it. 

The bear-themed nail art that she shared with her fans on Instagram and Twitter was a vibrant ensemble of colors; yellow, orange, pink and blue.

Naomi Osaka/IG

She definitely wasn’t representing  someone in a dark or sullen place. The nails could represent the various aspects of Osaka’s life and the way she’s making sure that everything coincides to give her peace of mind. Putting everything in its proper place to ensure that she’s functioning at 100 percent.  

When she does get that “itch,” the tennis world had better watch out, because she’s setting herself up for an impactful and historical comeback. A Naomi Osaka who is of sound and healthy mind and body is almost unbeatable on the tennis courts. She’s already a winner. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.