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Naomi Osaka Advocates For ‘Life-Changing’ Maternity Pay On WTA Tour

Naomi Osaka is joining her former opponent Victoria Azarenka in calling on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) to introduce maternity pay.

Naomi Osaka is joining her former opponent Victoria Azarenka in calling on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to introduce maternity pay.

The Japanese-born tennis champion, who is ranked No. 1 in singles by the WTA, is now calling on the organization to consider implementing maternity leave after giving birth to her daughter, Shai, last year.

“I think it would definitely be life-changing and I feel like having a kid shouldn’t feel like a punishment,” she told BBC.

“For most female athletes, I think there’s a discussion that your career’s going to change dramatically or going to finish because you have a kid, so just appreciating them more and giving more options is something that is very necessary.”

Osaka, who welcomed her daughter with rapper Cordae last July, had the pleasure of returning to the Grand Slam tour after the WTA changed the rules before the 2019 season. Following the rule change, new mothers can now use their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period from the birth of their child.

The KINLO founder’s stance on maternity leave comes after former world No. 1 Azarenka, who welcomed her son, Leo, in 2016, called on the WTA to introduce maternity leave for its members. Osaka beat the Belarus native at the 2020 US Open, but the two have found common ground as tennis players and mothers.

“There’s a lot more that has to change and I hope that we are on the right track to do it,” Azarenka said in Brisbane earlier this year.

“I think the important part is to change the financial part of maternity leave. I think that would be a huge win for women in general, so I hope we find the resources to be able to do that. I think that would be incredible.”

While Azarenka has had financial success as a player, she’s advocating for maternity leave in hopes of helping other players without the same benefits who might welcome children.

“I have, I’m guessing, more financial security than some players who may be outside the top 100, and maybe have the same desires and ambitions to have a child and continue to do their job,” she said.

WTA Chairman Steve Simon hasn’t responded to the maternity leave requests but did write a letter revealing that “maternity coverage is a topic scheduled for review.”

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