Tennis champion Naomi Osaka has played for millions of spectators. There is one fan, though, that she can’t wait to see.
“I’m most excited about being able to have a kid in the stands watching me play tennis, and them being able to say ‘Hey, that’s my mom on the court,'” Osaka, 25, who is expecting her first child with boyfriend and rapper Cordae, tells TODAY.com via email.
“I think that moment will be surreal and I really look forward to the day that it actually happens,” adds Osaka. “It really does feel like a dream to think of my own child in the stands watching me, and I’m so excited that I’ve got that coming in the not-so-distant future.”
It really does feel like a dream to think of my own child in the stands watching me.
In January, the four-time Grand Slam winner dropped an ultrasound photo on Instagram, writing, “Can’t wait to get back on the court but here’s a little life update for 2023.”
The happy news followed Naomi’s sudden withdrawal from the Australian Open, one year after her departure from the French Open over “bouts of depression” related to the 2018 US Open. During the match Naomi defeated her opponent and longtime hero Serena Williams, making her the first Japanese tennis player to win a Gram Slam. Osaka’s win was clouded by cheers and jeers, driving her to tears.
“The past few years have been interesting to say the least, but I find that it’s the most challenging times in life that may be the most fun,” Naomi elaborated in her pregnancy announcement, adding, “I don’t think there’s a perfectly correct path to take in life but I always felt that if you move forward with good intentions, you’ll find your way eventually.”
For role models, Osaka looks to her Japanese mom Tamaki Osaka and her Haitian father Leonard Francois, both of whom worked tirelessly to support the careers of Osaka and her sister, retired tennis player Mari Osaka, from a young age. Francois trained the girls on the court and, as Osaka said in her 2021 namesake Netflix documentary, Tamaki worked long hours, sometimes sleeping in her car.
It’s the most challenging times in life that may be the most fun.
“My mom is someone who I really look up to and admire for the sacrifices she made for me and my sister growing up,” says Naomi. “I know having my own child will only bring us closer and I’m looking forward to that.”
Osaka listens to her family, she says, while “trying to prepare for my own journey.”
“As far as what I’m most nervous about, probably just navigating all of the new life changes and trying to learn new things and figure it out as I go,” says Osaka. “I have a lot of helpful people around me to support, though, so that definitely puts my mind at ease.”
Osaka learned some fundamentals through her work with Baby2Baby, a national non-profit that distributes diapers, formula and clothing to families in need. The athlete recently contributed to the organization’s Mother’s Day distribution event, presented by Dave, a mobile banking app, in Beverly Hills.
I didn’t realize how much stuff you really need until I started preparing for my own baby!
“I didn’t realize how much stuff you really need until I started preparing for my own baby!” says Osaka. “For example, I had no idea that newborn babies can go through 10 or more diapers every day.”
She noted that one in three American families struggles to buy diapers.
“No mother should ever have to choose between diapers and putting food on the table” said Baby2Baby co-CEO Norah Weinstein. The group’s other co-CEO, Kelly Sawyer Patricof, said she’s grateful to have Osaka joining a community of people working to help mothers.
Any surprises in store for Osaka won’t include the sex of her baby. Although Osaka learned it early on, she kept the information from Cordae until recently.
“He knows the sex now — it was only a secret until we did the reveal party with our closest family and friends a couple months ago,” says Osaka. “It was hard to keep it a secret, but I also knew it would be much more fun to surprise him and everyone else during the party, so it was worth the wait.”
Composure is a strength Osaka hopes to sustain as she enters a new life chapter.
“Tennis takes a lot of patience — whether that’s patience with the time it takes to develop a training routine and get in the best shape possible, or patience on the court when waiting for the perfect shot to close the point,” she says. “I know parenthood will require a lot of patience in many other ways and I’m really just feeling optimistic and grateful for all that’s ahead.”