Naomi Osaka highlights motherhood challenges for WTA stars

Osaka has been on a sabbatical since September of last year and the uncertainty surrounding her return to professional tennis was raised after her recent comments. The Japanese star has shared some insight into her thinking, highlighting the challenges faced by women athletes in balancing motherhood and their careers.

She voiced her prior belief that having a child would effectively end her tennis career and shared her feelings of pressure as a woman on the tour with children. The four-time Grand Slam winner does not see many moms on the tour and those who are, are in the latter stages of their career.

Naomi Osaka
Photo by Icon sport

Moreover, balancing the demands of motherhood and a professional tennis career, which include childcare, physical recovery, and emotional well-being can be a difficult task to accomplish.

“Actually, there was a lot of pressure I felt for me,” she said. “For me, I always had the assumption that if you have a kid, it’s basically the end of your career. I don’t really see a lot of women on the tennis tour with kids. They are usually a bit older, and it just seems like a very hard taxing on your body.”

The likes of Viktoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Elena Svitolina have successfully juggled both responsibilities. These women have defied societal expectations and stereotypes by continuing to compete at a high level after becoming mothers, demonstrating the ability to manage their time effectively, prioritize their commitments, and make necessary adjustments to their routines.

Osaka working hard to come back

The question that arises is that are these stars the norm or the exceptions. Their success challenges the assumption that having a child is a career-ender for female athletes in tennis.

Osaka seems to have believed in the assumption but after being a mother and spending the time away from tennis, it has only increased her appreciation of the game. She has a renewed appetite and is focusing on working hard to reach her past levels.

“I just never really thought if I had a kid, I’d go back on the tour. But I feel like it was a magical moment for me. It just made me think of all the things I love and appreciate and it just made me really want to work hard… I’ve played tennis since I was three and I want to appreciate the time that I can still play.”

Osaka is appreciating the time on her hands and her comments would only serve as inspiration for other women players who may aspire to start a family while pursuing their tennis careers. While Azarenka and Svitolina have defied expectations, the Japanese ace has thrown the gauntlet for herself to realize these ambitions whenever she returns to the court.

It also raises the question about the environment female tennis players operate in. There is a need for creating supportive environments and providing resources for female athletes who choose to have children. It is crucial for sports organizations and society as a whole to understand and accommodate the unique challenges faced by women in balancing motherhood and professional sports.

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