Naomi Osaka returned to Flushing Meadows Wednesday afternoon to speak at a mental health forum at the US Open.
A two-time champion at the Grand Slam, Osaka has not made an on-court appearance in New York this year after giving birth to her daughter Shai with her rapper boyfriend Cordae in July.
However, fans were treated to a glimpse of the four-time Grand Slam winner as she made a guest appearance at the US Open on Wednesday.
Osaka was back in Queens, the site of her first Grand Slam win in 2018, to participate in a forum to discuss mental health struggles alongside US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and American Olympic icon Michael Phelps.
The Japanese tennis star has publicly spoken about her own battles with mental health on and off the court.
Naomi Osaka returned to the US Open Wednesday afternoon to speak at a mental health forum
Osaka sat on the panel with US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (left) and Michael Phelps (right)
She withdrew from the 2021 French Open, revealing that she has previously struggled with depression after her refusal to give post-match interviews had been criticized.
‘I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly,’ she said.
‘Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.
‘Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.
‘I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.’
After a shock defeat at the US Open to Leylah Fernandez in 2021, she tearfully said: ‘I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.
‘I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. I feel like when I win I don’t feel happy, I feel relief. And when I lose I feel very sad. And I don’t think that’s normal.’
Osaka announced she was pregnant in January and in June said she was expecting a girl. She has been in a relationship with Grammy-nominated American rapper Cordae since 2019.
The four-time Grand Slam winner listens to 23-time Olympic gold medalist Phelps
Osaka has previously publicly opened up about her own struggles with mental health
She has been in a relationship with rapper Cordae since 2019. The couple pictured in 2020
She had announced that she was expecting a baby girl with the rap star in June
Osaka uploaded her first social media post since giving birth to baby girl, Shai, in July
Osaka shared five pictures in July after giving birth, including photo of her in the hospital
Osaka admitted she thought her career would be over after welcoming a child but following the birth of her daughter said she is motivated to do well to be an inspiration for her child.
Osaka, who will turn 26 in October, hasn’t played tennis since September 2022 but is now targeting a return at the Australian Open in January 2024 and recently shared an Instagram post of her hitting the comeback trail.
‘Actually, there was a lot of pressure I felt for me, she said on the Mountaintop Conversation podcast, via Tennis World. ‘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. 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.
In my head, I wondered why guys younger than me or around the same age as me are able to have kids and they’re kind of just walking around like ‘Everything is fine!’. And it irritated me a lot because I was more accomplished than them.
The tennis star hit the comeback trail last month as she plots a return to the court
The 25-year-old shared a series of photos and videos of her working out after giving birth
The four-time Grand Slam winner was working hard a month after welcoming her baby girl
They weren’t dealing with any of the repercussions that women have if they need to have a kid so that kind of softened the pressure for me,’
In July, Osaka shared five pictures with the first photo showing her daughter in a tennis-themed outfit with her face hidden.
Her child was wearing a white all-in-one with embroidered green and pink tennis rackets and tennis balls.
She also shared a snap of her baby bump, of herself in the hospital bed as well as a picture from her celebrations back home – complete with pink balloons and rose petals.