Naomi Osaka ahead of Roland Garros 2022

Naomi Osaka names Carlos Alcaraz as inspiration ahead of comeback

Naomi Osaka has named Carlos Alcaraz as a player who has helped her rediscover her love for tennis during her absence from the sport.

Osaka was once one of the top players on the WTA Tour, winning four majors before troubles with anxiety left her isolated and unable to enjoy winning anymore.

She has since had more than a year away from tennis to start a family, but she is making her return in Australia and says her love for the game is now back.

That, she says, is due to watching tennis as a fan again, and she named Carlos Alcaraz as someone who has inspired her to come back.

Asked whether she has regained her love of tennis during her time away from the sport, Osaka said: “Definitely.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve never loved tennis. Of course I loved it. I think after a certain point, I just felt more relieved to win, if that makes sense.

“It was a little hard dealing with that. Instead of being happy to win, I felt more relief. I think for me just having this time away watching other players, appreciating them a lot [helped a lot].

“I remember watching Wimbledon, watching Alcaraz going to the court and practicing dropshots because I’m going to play like dropshots like he does.

“I guess in a way being a kid again, being inspired by other players, wanting to play on the big courts.”

Carlos Alcaraz Wimbledon 2023

Naomi Osaka admits she nearly quit for good

Naomi Osaka has always been something of an enigmatic figure in tennis, albeit a much valued one.

Her brilliant breakthrough against a raging Serena Williams in the US Open final was as spectacular as her withdrawal from Roland Garros due to not wanting to complete her media duties was baffling.

She is back now and there is a good chance she will return more energised than ever, although it was a never a given that she was going to resume her tennis career at all.

Asked if there was ever a time she thought about not coming back to tennis, Osaka said: “Yeah, I would say right after Tokyo for, like, a month maybe I was thinking about it because I felt like all my joy went away for the sport.

“I felt like it kind of wasn’t fair, both for the people watching and myself. But then I thought: I’ve played tennis since I was three and there’s so many more things that I want to do.

“Especially with Shai (her daughter), I want her to see someone that has big goals and dreams. I think that’s really important – to have really good role models.

“Also, just learning how to appreciate the sport. I think in the time I had away, I appreciated the sport a lot more.

“After giving birth, I understood how physical & how much work it takes to get there. I’m very curious to see what happens in my match.”

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.