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Naomi Osaka says she's returning to pro tennis in 2024

Naomi Osaka said in an ESPN interview that she's planning to return to professional tennis next year.

Over a month after giving birth to daughter Shai, Osaka, 25, told the sports outlet Wednesday that she's aiming for a packed schedule in 2024. 

"It's definitely way more tournaments than I used to play," said Osaka, who hasn't played since withdrew from the Tokyo Open last year. "So, I think some people will be happy with that." 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka talks to the media on Day 2 of the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Sept. 20, 2022 in Tokyo. / Getty Images

During her pregnancy announcement earlier this year, the tennis star said she would be at the Australian Open in 2024. She confirmed she'd be back for that tournament and said the uptick in the amount of tournaments is to "ease into" pro tennis play. 

"I think it's because I realized that I don't know how the beginning of the year is going to go for me... So at the very least, I'm going to set myself up for a very good end of the year," she added. 

As the U.S. Open heads into its final week, Osaka also voiced missing the sport. 

"I've been watching matches and I'm like, 'I kind of wish I was playing too,'" she told ESPN. "But I'm in this position now and I'm very grateful. I really love my daughter a lot, but I think it really fueled a fire in me."

Osaka made her comments as she returned to the U.S. Open for a panel on mental health, a topic she has openly discussed in the past as part of her own struggles. 

"Every person is unique in this world and that's something that no one can take away, and you just — I don't want to be corny, but like, you just got [to] appreciate that and know that you're special, and I don't think people say that enough," Osaka said during the panel. 

Olympic superstar Michael Phelps and surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy were also part of the forum. 

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Naomi Osaka participate in a forum on mental health and sports on the sidelines of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on Sept. 6, 2023. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

oOsaka has won four Grand Slam titles in her young career. At one point, she was ranked as the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world. In recent years, she has also dealt with injuries and spoke about her mental health struggles amid her decision to withdraw from the 2021 French Open

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