Naomi Osaka set to return soon: “I kind of have that itch again”

The four-time Grand Slam winner says she’s likely to return “probably soon”, having said she was taking a break after her early US Open exit for mental health reasons

Naomi Osaka at Cincinnati

Just a few weeks after exiting the US Open and suggesting she needed a break from tennis, Naomi Osaka says she’s got the itch back and is likely to return to the Tour soon.

The four-time major winner lost in the third round to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez in New York and in her press conference after, said she needed some time away.

But in an interview with HBO show, The Shop, the Japanese said she was looking forward to getting back on the match court.

“I know I’m going to play again,” she said. “I kind of have that itch again. It wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost, I’d just have the joy of being back on the court.”

Naomi Osaka: “I want to feel like I’m playing for myself”

Osaka revealed she has been suffering with her mental health earlier this year, when she withdrew from the French Open. She then pulled out of Wimbledon and though she returned at the Olympics, she left in tears after losing in round three.

The 23-year-old Osaka said she thought her brief break would help her regain her love for the sport.

“I want to feel like I’m playing for myself. And I started to feel like that power was being taken away from me in the way that I felt like I wasn’t playing to make myself happy and I was more concerned about like, if I won or lost, what would people say about me,” she said. “And I just used to love like the competition and just being competitive. If I were to play a long match, the longer it was, the more fun it was for me. And then I just started to feel, like recently, the longer it was, the more stressed out I became.

“But I just needed a break to go within myself and reclaim what was it that [provided motivation],” she added. “You know, I’ve been playing tennis since I was three years old; for sure I love the sport, I know I’m going to play again. Probably soon, because I kind of have that itch again, but it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I’d just have the joy of being back on the court, just to … know that I’m doing it for myself.”

Osaka has withdrawn from next week’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells but could yet play in the season-ending WTA Finals, which have been moved to Guadlajara, Mexico.

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