Naomi Osaka: Four-time Grand Slam champion to launch own sports agency

Naomi Osaka has confirmed she is leaving IMG to start her own sports agency; the 24-year-old is a four-time Grand Slam champion and was the first player from Japan to win a major; Osaka: “Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman”

Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka says the decision to launch her own sports agency is the “natural next step” in her career.

Osaka, 24, confirmed on Wednesday that she is leaving IMG to launch Evolve, with her long-time agent Stuart Duguid.

The first player for Japan to win a Grand Slam, Osaka has emerged as a leading advocate for athlete mental health and wellbeing since she pulled out of the French Open a year ago and disclosed she had been suffering from depression for years.

Osaka played in Madrid last week“I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka told Sportico.

“Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way.”

Duguid and Osaka began discussing the venture at the Tokyo Olympics last year, Duguid told Reuters, adding that the firm, will operate as a “small boutique and bespoke agency”.

“We were discussing the business models of some of her mentors like Kobe (Bryant) and Lebron (James). We thought why has no transcendent female athlete done that yet,” he said.

“It’s athlete-driven and focused on big picture brand building rather than quick checks with a commission attached.”

Duguid said he could not share much about the identities of the initial clients but added, “it would be only athletes who transcend their sports; or those with the potential to do so.”

On Wednesday, Osaka tweeted a compilation of clips from her earlier playing days in which she discussed her career aspirations with the caption “Hey kid, you’ve come a long way and even though there’s been some bumps on the road I hope you know you’re doing amazing.”

In one of the clips, she prophetically discussed what she might be doing were she not a tennis player.

“I just like sports, so maybe (I would be) like an agent in the end,” she said.

Osaka, who is currently ranked at No 38, withdrew from this week’s Italian Open due to an Achilles injury she picked up while making a second-round exit at the Madrid Open last week.

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