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Naomi Osaka “has the right to no longer want to be a tennis player but must say it clearly”
As part of the latest Match Points series, Marion Bartoli, Carole Bouchard and Simon Cambers talk about four-time Grand Slam champion. The Japanese player, according to them, must solve her problems off the court to return to the highest level on it
In the latest episode of Match Points, a question was asked of Simon Cambers, Marion Bartoli and Carole Bouchard, about who has been the most disappointing player of the 2022 season. The answer was unanimous: four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka.
According to all three, Naomi Osaka’s life off the court weighs too heavily on her career as a professional player.
“She’s the most disappointing player of the year and not just because of the tennis but also because of what she does on the side,” Cambers said.
“It’s because of her mind,” Bartoli said, “because of everything she does off the court. She has too many things outside of tennis, it’s complicated for her.”
Naomi Osaka, the Businesswoman
“She has the right to not like playing anymore and to be done with tennis,” says Bouchard. “She has the right to love writing her children’s books and having business, of course, even an entrepreneur, that’s not the problem. Nevertheless, in this case, it must be made clear, ‘I don’t want to be a tennis player anymore, I don’t care’. It would also be clear to sponsors like that.”
In 2022, Naomi Osaka embarked on audiovisual production with her company Hana Kuma, launched her own sports management agency “Evolve”, and wrote her first comic book “The Way Champs Play”. She was already the owner of her skincare brand “Kinlo”, and the brand ambassador of 12 companies including Nike, Mastercard, Louis Vuitton and Panasonic, a leading supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and one of the athletes who openly talks about mental health problems, anxiety and depression.
The 25-year-old Japanese, a former world No 1 who has won the Australian Open and US Open twice each and is the highest earning female athlete in the world currently, showed sparks of a revival early in the season by reaching the final at the Miami Open in March.
But since then, she has played only seven tournaments and scored only three wins (two complete matches and one via her opponent’s retirement) and ended the year ranked 41st in the world.
For Cambers, the solution for Osaka to return to the top level is simple to say but difficult to do. “She has to find a way to love tennis again and get back on track.”
Whether Osaka is able to do that in the 2023 season will be keenly followed by all three of them and the rest of the tennis world.