Naomi Osaka explains how her mentality has changed as she opens up about cute FaceTime with her daughter Shai

Shahida Jacobs
Naomi Osaka on court
Naomi Osaka of Japan waves to the tennis fans

Naomi Osaka has revealed that she is a lot hungrier to win matches since becoming a mother as she admitted she is taking nothing for granted since giving birth to her daughter Shai.

Having missed the 2023 season as she became a first-time mother in July, Osaka made a tentative return to action at the start of this campaign.

However, the former world No 1 has found form at the Italian Open as she has reached the round of 16 on the back of three impressive wins – including one over 10th seed Daria Kasatkina in the third round.

The four-time Grand Slam winner has adopted a different mindset since becoming a mother as she admitted catching up with her daughter, who is back home in the United States, after matches has been key to her mental health and success in Rome.

“I do think after Shai was born, my mentality is that I’m a lot more hungry. I think winning three matches here is something that I’m extremely positive and happy about. I don’t take it for granted at all. I want to keep going,” she revealed.

“I don’t know. I just want to see how far I can go. I don’t know, I’m also really excited to see Shai, so it makes me happy every day to wake up. It’s like T minus nine days till I see her, so…

“I mean, I FaceTime her a lot. I get a lot of videos. She knows how to, like, kiss the phone. If I FaceTime her and I go (kissing sounds into the phone), then she’ll kiss the phone back. I don’t know, it’s really cute. I don’t feel like I’m missing too much ’cause I’m getting so many updates.”

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What has made Osaka’s display in Rome even more impressive is the fact that she has done it on clay – which she is the first to admit is not her favourite surface.

Asked if she had been watching some of tennis great Serena Williams’ old matches for some tips on how to play on the red dirt, she replied: “You know there’s like a hallway to the gym that has all the champions. I see Serena and [Maria] Sharapova on there. It makes me very inspired knowing that hard-hitters can play well on clay. Of course, when I was younger, I watched both of them extensively.

“But currently I didn’t rewind any Serena tapes ’cause I still feel really sad that she’s not here. Especially since Rafa [Nadal] is doing his last, like, hurrah, it makes me feel a bit more sad.

“Honestly, you brought up a good point, so I’ll have some more homework.”