How Naomi Osaka Keeps All Her Balls in the Air

A black woman poses for a portrait. Her curly hair is pulled back from her face and she looks slightly over her left shoulder toward the camera. Her mouth is unsmiling.
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Zoe Grossman

In January, following a 15-month hiatus during which she welcomed her first child, Naomi Osaka returned to the tennis court for the Brisbane International and the Australian Open. Her mere presence on the court was a victory for fans who hadn’t seen her play since 2022. Although she left without a trophy after getting knocked out of the Open in the first round, Osaka said that it “felt good to be back” and vowed she’ll return to Melbourne in 2025. 

The vibe was markedly different from just a year earlier, when Osaka withdrew from the same tournament following a challenging professional stretch. In May 2021, with four Grand Slams already under her belt, she’d withdrawn from the French Open to focus on her mental health, stunning the sports world and sparking conversations about athletes’ well-being. She went on to play in the Tokyo Olympics that year but said she’d be taking another pause weeks later, after an early-round loss at the U.S. Open. Her decision inspired other athletes, including gymnast Simone Biles and snowboarder Chloe Kim, in their own decisions to take breaks to prioritize their mental health. 

Osaka’s life didn’t stop during these breaks. Off the court, she has been busy running several business ventures. Her skin-care brand, Kinlò, sells products specifically formulated for people with darker skin tones. Evolve, the talent agency she co-founded with her agent, Stuart Duguid, now represents fellow tennis stars Nick Kyrgios and Ons Jabeur. Hana Kuma, the production company she created alongside LeBron James, has produced projects including a New York Times Op-Doc about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress and the author and sponsor of Title IX. Osaka is also the founder of Play Academy, an organization that provides grants and training to girls in Los Angeles, Haiti, and Japan who may not have the resources to play sports. She lives in L.A. with her partner, the rapper Cordae, and their now-7-month-old daughter, Shai. Here, how she gets it all done.

On her morning and training routines:
I wake up anywhere between 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. depending on the day. I try to start with a five-minute meditation, if I can squeeze it in with the baby. My first stop is Shai’s room, and we spend quality time together with her morning feeding. Since I am no longer breastfeeding and I’m giving her formula, we spend that time together before I get ready to train. I either have smoked salmon or ground beef, scrambled eggs, and matcha for breakfast. I’m a creature of habit, so when I find something I like, I stick with it for a while. Then I get my tennis bag and head to the court, always making sure I use sunscreen.

I then train from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. six days a week. I typically start my day with a warm-up before hitting for about two to three hours. After I hit, I do my off-court training, which consists of strength and conditioning, cardio, and then treatment. It’s really important that I take care of myself post-training, so stretching, working with a massage therapist, and just making sure I do whatever I can for post-care.

On managing stress:
I like playing video games. Overwatch, Skyrim, and Dishonored are a few of my favorites. I also like to go on a long walk while listening to music. It really calms me and puts me at ease. Putting on headphones and listening to music is something I do to unwind even before a match — it really lets me get out of my own head. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I do my best to find time for my meditation practice, even if it’s just for five minutes at the beginning or end of a day. It’s really calming. I never used to be into meditation, but when I started working with Modern Health, I found the value it has on my life, and I even created a few meditations on the app. I listen to those, and I even lead one with Shai!

On the moment she felt she’d “made it”:
Winning Indian Wells in 2018 was the turning point for me that made me realize that I could really do this. I also feel like, since I had to take time off from tennis to have Shai, I was able to prove to myself that not only could I excel in the sport I love, but I could also do meaningful things off the court. That was a big turning point for me. Forming Evolve and Hana Kuma, developing Kinlò, designing for Nike — it all reminded me that I don’t only have to rely on tennis.

On celebrating her success: 
Spending time with loved ones is my favorite way to celebrate a win — specifically if I can be on a beach somewhere with people I love.

On the small delights that get her through the day:
Some people need coffee. For me, I really love juices and smoothies. I love being able to make my own creations, and I think I am pretty good at it for pre- and post-workout recovery, energy, and hydration.

On dealing with self-doubt:
Coming back from having Shai, I constantly wonder if I’m ready to compete at the level that I want to compete at. I’ve really just focused on putting in the work to get the results that I want. As long as I know that I did everything that I could do, I can’t be disappointed in myself.

On taking breaks from tennis and dealing with criticism: 
I’ve played tennis for as long as I can remember. I feel the most like myself when I’m playing, and taking breaks is sometimes what I need to remind myself of that love and passion that was there at the beginning. The criticism was really hard to manage at the time, but I think that it made me stronger. Since having Shai, I’ve taken stock of my life and my mental health. Part of being a professional athlete is dealing with internet trolls and even fans in the arenas who like to heckle players. It used to get to my head, but I feel I have learned and grown so much. I remind myself there are always less trolls than positive supporters. I have tried to focus more on the positive comments and messages. At the end of the day, my family and friends that love me are the only opinions that matter to me.

On ambition and how her relationship to tennis has changed:
I’ve always been very ambitious. I hold myself to a high standard and can be very hard on myself when I don’t reach goals that I set for myself. Motherhood has really helped me put things into perspective. Work used to be everything. For a long time, I’ve tied winning to my worth as a person and wondered if I’m a good enough tennis player. I’ve been able to take steps back and realize that it’s not the most important thing in my life. I have learned to put less pressure on myself while maintaining the hunger to win. I want to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon. I am also really excited to go back and compete at the Olympic Games.

On the advice she wishes she had at the start of her career:
I wish that someone told me to enjoy the ride. It goes by so fast, and I’ve really been trying to live in the moment and appreciate this time, as you only have a limited amount of time to play at this level.

On the people who help her get it done:
I’m so fortunate to have a great nanny. I was always told that “it takes a village,” and I’m understanding that firsthand. The tennis schedule is very hectic, and I’m grateful to have constant help. Without it, it would be very challenging to continue playing.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

How Naomi Osaka Keeps All Her Balls in the Air