25 May 2024, 17:17

Baby steps for Osaka and daughter at French Open

PARIS, May 25, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Naomi Osaka's bittersweet relationship with 
the French Open tasted a little more appealing on Saturday when the Japanese 
star revealed her daughter had taken her first steps in Paris and she was on 
hand to witness it happen.

The 26-year-old, who has been in Europe for the best part of six weeks while 
baby Shai remained at home in Florida, has been reunited with her 10-month-
old daughter ahead of the second Grand Slam event of the season.

"Being away from her was really tough, but I called her every day. I saw how 
well she was doing and I saw how happy she was, so that made me happy too," 
said Osaka.

"But yesterday she walked for the first time, so I was really happy about 
that. We're going to practice some more when I get back.
"It's really cool to have her here, just to see how much she's grown and how 
many things she's doing differently. It's kind of surreal."

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam title winner and former world number one, 
hasn't always been so over-joyed to be in the French capital.

In 2021, she was fined for opting out of mandatory media commitments at 
Roland Garros before withdrawing from the tournament in order to protect her 
mental health.

A year later, she fell in the first round before then leaving the sport in 
September 2022 for 16 months to start a family.

"I'm learning a lot of lessons through motherhood, and I hope that I can 
remember to apply them on the tennis court," said the 26-year-old on 

Osaka captured her four majors on the hard courts of the US Open and 
Australian Open.

Attempting to transfer her raw power to the slower and more demanding clay of 
Europe has proved a sterner test.

She has still to get past the third round at the French Open and should she 
defeat Italy's Lucia Bronzetti on Monday, Osaka will then likely run into top 
seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek.

However, on the clay of Rome earlier this month she knocked out top 20 
players Daria Kasatkina and Marta Kostyuk before falling to eighth-ranked 
Zheng Qinwen in the last 16.

Now up to 134 in the world after being outside the top 800 in January, Osaka 
is gradually learning to appreciate the demands of clay where it is harder to 
simply hit your opponent off the court.

"Just observing other players more, watching how they play, watching how they 
move. I think the clay court is a little bit like a dance," she said.

"It's just really fun to watch people slide. It's fun to watch the shot-
making, the choices and why they do the things they do."

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