When Naomi Osaka revealed this week that she was expecting her first child in 2023, the Japanese star became the second former Australian Open champion in the space of a week to announce her pregnancy. The 25-year-old's momentous news came hot on the heels of Ash Barty's own pregnancy reveal, with last year's Melbourne Park champion confirming that she and husband Garry Kissick were also set to welcome their first child together in 2023.
Curiously, Osaka and Barty's announcement continues a stunning trend of pregnancies for former Australian Open champions. Osaka, the 2019 and 2021 champion at the Australian Open, sparked an extraordinary anomaly in which five of the last six Australian Open women's winners are either pregnant of have had a baby, joining Angelique Kerber (2016), Serena Williams (2017), Caroline Wozniacki (2018) and Barty (2022). Sofia Kenin (2020) is the only outlier over that period.
Osaka, who hasn't played a match on the WTA Tour since the Pan Pacific Open in Japan last September, said in a Twitter post on Thursday: "Can't wait to get back on the court but here's a little life update for 2023. I know that I have so much to look forward to in the future, one thing I'm looking forward to is for my kid to watch one of my matches and tell someone, 'that's my mom', haha.'
"2023 will be a year that'll be full of lessons for me and I hope I'll see you guys in the start of the next one cause I'll be at Aus 2024. Love you all infinitely." Her post was accompanied by what appeared to be a pregnancy scan.
The four-time grand slam champion, who is in a relationship with American rapper Cordae, added in her post: "The past few years have been interesting to say the least. But I find that it's the most challenging times in life that may be the most fun.
"These few months away from the sport has really given me a new love and appreciation for the game I've dedicated my life to. I realise that life is so short and I don't take any moments for granted, everyday is a new blessing and adventure. I knew that I have so much to look forward to in the future."
Serena Williams of course defeated her big sister Venus while pregnant with daughter Olympia to claim the 2017 Australian Open title. The American had been defeated by Kerber in the previous year's final at Melbourne Park, and the German will also be missing from the first grand slam of 2023 after announcing her pregnancy before last year's US Open.
“I really wanted to play the US Open but eventually I decided that two against one just isn‘t a fair competition,” Kerber wrote at the time. “For the next months, I will take a break from traveling the globe as a tennis player but then again, I believe it’s for the best possible reason!
“Being a professional athlete means everything to me but I’m grateful for the new path I’m heading to. To be honest, I’m nervous and excited at the same time.”
Wozniacki won her first and only grand slam after defeating Simona Halep in the final of the 2018 Australian Open, before saying farewell to Melbourne Park in 2020 and giving birth to her first child Olivia the following year. The Dane welcomed her second child, a son named James, 11 weeks ago.
“Family of four. James Wozniacki Lee, born October 24, 2022. Everybody is healthy and Olivia is thrilled to be a big sister,” Wozniacki wrote.
Barty - who shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement last year after winning the Australian Open - also shared her big baby news with an adorable post on social media. The three-time major winner posted a photo of one of her dogs alongside some baby shoes, writing: “2023 set to be the best year yet. We are so excited for our new adventure. Origi already the protective big sister”.
Barty's husband Kissick, who is a huge Liverpool fan, also shared the news by writing: “Little Red, 2023”.
Calls for Ash Barty to return to tennis after having child
While Barty has stated that she's happily retired from tennis and ready to focus on the next chapter of her life, Aussie great Todd Woodbridge hopes the 26-year-old may draw inspiration from Osaka's statement. The Japanese star made it clear she intends to return to tennis after giving birth and Woodbridge - like fans all over Australia - is hoping Barty will follow suit after starting a family.
He said on Channel 9 on Thursday: "I liked at the end of (Osaka's) statement when she said 'I'm looking forward to coming back in 2024'. "Automatically it set off in my mind: 'hey a young Australian might be able to come back with her'. Maybe she can get on the phone to Ash Barty, they will both be new mums by them.
"Maybe they can set up creche and move it around the world and Ash could be back out there. I'm not sure Ash would agree with me but we'll plant the seed."
As nice as it would be to see Barty make a comeback, her comments on the matter in the past won't fill fans with hope. She recently told the New York Times: “To be honest, I think what has surprised me most is how comfortable I’ve been (in retirement).
"I think there was probably a normal fear or uncertainty in not knowing what my life would look like after tennis after being so focused. I was a bit unsure how I would deal with that because I am a person who likes to be organised.
"There was probably a little bit of fear in that, but overall, that hasn’t been an issue, a concern or a worry. What’s been surprising in a good way is that I’ve slipped quite seamlessly into this life that’s just like everyone else. Which is kind of always what I wanted.”
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