Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka has broken several barriers when it comes to athletes. She has spoken openly about her mental health struggles, about the pressure put on tennis stars to engage with the media, and about her journey to becoming a four-time Grand Slam winner. Now, the 26-year-old is opening up and speaking candidly about her journey to motherhood, and how she conquered her doubts to feel secure in her abilities to be a good parent to her daughter Shai.
"Something I had to conquer recently is fighting the thought that I won't be a good mom," she wrote on Instagram in both English and Japanese. "So many doubts raced through my head I had to swat them away like mosquitoes."
This post, which came a week after she turned 26, continued, “Looking into Shai's eyes and holding her I always think, 'Wow, this little person depends on me so much, I have to do better.’”
"It's such a strange feeling watching your kid grow, you blink and they're double the size in a few months."
Shai was born in July to both Naomi and her partner, rapper Cordae. She had previously admitted to People back in April that when it comes to motherhood, "I would say for me, I just want to be the best version of myself. Obviously, I've never been a mother before so I'm taking it day-by-day and just trying to be someone that my son or daughter will be proud of."
Her birthday posts are a bit of a tradition, but she began this one by reflecting on how the last 12 months, which included her pregnancy announcement, changed everything.
"Where has the time gone?" she began. "I look back on my life and it feels like I'm rewinding an old VHS tape; it flashes by so quickly and suddenly I'm here in the present. I often try to retrace my steps to figure out how I ended up here. I know I say this often, but I truly still feel like that kid playing on public courts in Queens, N.Y.”
"Randomly, I wonder if I'm doing OK; is there a correct path to take in life or have I veered off onto the scene route for a little bit? However, I've now come into the mindset that I can only keep moving forward and everything that will be, will be."
As Naomi trains to make a return to the competitive sport, she thanked those who have stuck by her as she made her personal journey to motherhood and has high hopes for the future.
"Gratefulness reminds me to breathe and take in the little things (and the big ones)," she wrote. "I'm so grateful to have another year and I'm so thankful to everyone that believes in me."
Her optimism for the future is well founded: she has already been selected for the 2024 United Cup where she will partner with fellow Japanese player Yoshihito Nishioka. She will play in both singles and doubles matches at the tournament. She has played doubles before, but her record in that format is 2-14.