Todd Woodbridge has expressed his hope that Ash Barty will follow in Naomi Osaka's footsteps and make a comeback to tennis after having her baby. Osaka revealed on Thursday that she is expecting her first child, explaining her decision to withdraw from the Australian Open just a few days prior.
Osaka, the 2019 and 2021 champion at the Australian Open, has 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.
But the difference between Osaka and Barty is that the former revealed her intentions to come back to tennis in 2024 after becoming a mother. Barty announced her shock retirement from the sport last March before revealing she was pregnant earlier this month.
For Aussie tennis great Woodbridge, Osaka's revelation that her tennis career isn't over filled him with hope that Barty's might not be either. 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.”
She has also categorically ruled out making a comeback to tennis or any other professional sport.
Naomi Osaka coming back to tennis after having baby
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."
Can’t wait to get back on the court but here’s a little life update for 2023. pic.twitter.com/GYXRnutU3I
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 11, 2023
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.