The first year of a baby's life often passes by in a whirlwind of long nights, busy days and exciting firsts. But new mom Naomi Osaka is hoping that her six-month old daughter, Shai, doesn't reach one "inevitable" milestone for a little longer ... at least, until after the Australian Open.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who's won Down Under twice, is back on the tennis tour in 2024, and is playing her first major tournament since the 2022 US Open in Melbourne. But little Shai didn't make the trip—for her own good with a long flight, Osaka says—and the former world No. 1 says she's been keeping tabs on her baby via FaceTime as much as she can.

"It's definitely been really hard," Osaka said of their time apart. "She's learning things while I'm gone. I'm hoping she doesn't learn how to crawl before I come back. She's doing her little plank thing and scooting forward and back. I think it might be a little inevitable.

"I'm definitely sad, but I feel like it's a selfish sad because I want her to be here. But I think for her health and like her whole environment is at home-you know what I mean? I don't want to put her out of that while she's still so young."


While a piece of her heart is back home with Shai, Osaka is not taking the opportunity to compete at the Australian Open again for granted, nor lightly.

In fact, as she readies to face No. 16 seed Caroline Garcia on Monday in Melbourne, she says she's feeling the complete opposite.

"I've taken a lot of breaks throughout the years. I feel like for me, I think this one was the one that finally clicked in my head," Osaka said. "I think I realized,, being an athlete, that time is really precious. I never took that for granted before. If that makes sense. I was young and I felt like I could kind of roll back into it whenever I needed to.

"I guess like after having Shai, kind of going through the struggle of trying to get myself back to where I want to be, it was incredibly tough.

"I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset. I think overall I'm just happy to be here because I remember last year I was watching people playing Australian Open, and I couldn't participate myself."