Nick Kyrgios a big fan of ‘inspirational’ Naomi Osaka, saying ‘I love what she brings to the sport’

Naomi Osaka arrives on court

Nick Kyrgios believes Naomi Osaka is not only “an amazing athlete”, but she has “inspired millions of people” off the court, something that he believes he has in common with the former world No 1.

Wimbledon runner-up Kyrgios became the first athlete to sign up with Osaka’s new agency Evolve in June after she set up the company with her long-time agent Stuart Duguid following her decision to cut ties with IMG.

It is the female-athlete-led talent agency and one of several off-court projects that Osaka has been involved with since rising to the top.

The 24-year-old’s journey has been an inspirational one so far.

Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam winner having won two Australian Open and US Open titles while she is also the first Asian player to be No 1 in the WTA Rankings after hitting top spot in January 2019.

The Japanese star was one of the dominant forces on the Tour from the back end of 2018 until the beginning of the 2021 season and endorsements were flowing her way as the likes of Nike, Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan, Tag Heuer watches and luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton all signed big sponsorship deals with her.

She became the highest-paid female athlete in 2021 after earning $37.4 million with $34 million of those coming in endorsements while later that year she became the first tennis player to light the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games.

However, her on-court fortunes turned midway through 2021 as she struggled with injury while her form also dipped. She also pulled out of the French Open last year and opted to take lengthy breaks from the sport after opening up about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

Her decision not to do media duties at Roland Garros caused a big furore, but it also drew widespread praise with the likes of Olympic greats Simone Biles, Allyson Felix and Michael Phelps all lauding her and since then many athletes have come forward to speak about their mental health.

Kyrgios, who has also spoken about his struggles with mental health, had nothing but praise for Osaka after he was asked about his decision to join her agency ahead of the Japan Open.

“Naomi, I love what she brings to the sport,” he said.

“I think she’s an amazing athlete. She can play some great tennis, but what she can do off the court is even more inspirational. She has so many people looking up to her. She inspires millions of people and I think that’s something that I bring, as well.”

Since joining Evolve in June, Kyrgios has impressed on court as he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, won the Citi Open in Washington DC, reached the quarter-finals of the Canadian Open and the US Open.

He opened his Japan Open campaign with an impressive win over Jason Tseng from Taiwanese and will be back in action on Thursday when he takes on Kamil Majchrzak in the round of 16 of the ATP 500 event.