Naomi Osaka will find motherhood ‘very freeing’ but return to top-level not guaranteed – Chris Evert

Chris Evert believes becoming a mum will be “very freeing” for Naomi Osaka and that she could return to the tour stronger” – but it is not guaranteed.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, 25, made the

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She is not expected to play tennis again this year but has said she will return to the Australian Open in 2024.

“I think it’s great news and I think she’s going to be a great mum,” former world no. 1 Evert, who has three sons, told Eurosport.

“Naomi has shown us so much compassion and kindness during her career that I think that’s going to translate that into caring for another human being, I think she’s going to be an awesome mum.

“I think it’s going to be very freeing for her, in the sense that she can now focus on a human being that is more important than anything else in the world. And she’s not just focusing on tennis, the pressures, the expectations, all the challenges that she faced before, the anxiety, I think having a child is the most freeing and the most loving act that can happen to you.

“It’s going to be very healthy and almost healing for her. I’m really happy for her because I think it’s meant to be. I think everything happens for a reason, and it just takes all of the pressure off her and it takes all of the attention off her.”

Osaka has seemingly endured a difficult 18 months on tour.

She withdrew from the 2021 French Open due to mental issue concerns and then had the “pressure” of lighting the torch at the Olympics in her home country of Japan.
She recently opened up about how she felt “ashamed’ for taking a break from tennis to manage her mental health.

Osaka is the third former world No. 1 to become pregnant at this time, joining Ashleigh Barty and Angelique Kerber.

“She says she’s going to come back, which seems to be the common thread now, in women’s tennis,” added Evert.

“Kerber is going to have a child and she says she wants to come back, Vika [Azarenka] came back and Serena [Williams] came back. More and more players are taking this taking this route, and I think it’s very empowering for them.

“I do think your body is different after you have a child and you’re stronger. I think physically, mentally and emotionally you’re stronger after you have a child and that’s my feeling. I don’t know this statistically, or factually, but I just feel like women could come back even better than before, because they do just have more inner strength.

“And now these careers are over like 20 years, now players are playing well into their 30s or even 40. Basically you take a year and a half out, people do that anyway if they’re injured so I think it’s becoming more and more feasible to have both in your life.”

Asked whether former world no. 1 Osaka could return to the top of the game, Evert said: “I think that having a child can either really inspire you and you want to come back and play and juggle motherhood with being a competitor, or on the other hand it can make you want to stay home and nurture and be with your baby full time and just put you into that mindset where it’s like nothing else is important except for raising this child.

Ashley Barty

Image credit: Getty Images

“I kind of thought for a while when I had a child, I’m going to come back and play World Team Tennis, and I’m really looking forward to it. But that was because I was nine months pregnant and I was like ‘Oh, this has been a long nine months and I haven’t been able to do anything active, I haven’t been able to play tennis. I can’t wait to get back’.

“Once I had my first child. It was like ‘Whoa, I want to stay home’ and I felt the mothering instincts take over, like, ‘I just want to stay home and I want to change diapers and I want to be there every minute to watch him grow and I want to nurture him’. And so I mean, it could be one of two mindsets, which both are equally correct according to how that person really feels.”

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