Naomi Osaka has parted ways with management company IMG to launch her own sports agency.
The four-time Grand Slam winner revealed on Wednesday that she would be starting up her own business with longtime agent Stuart Duguid.
Creating the agency company, which the duo have named Evolve, is Osaka’s “natural next step” in her career, according to the tennis star herself.
Osaka’s influential career so far
Ever since she made her professional debut at just 16 years of age, Osaka has been a trailblazer for her country.
After her iconic win over Serena Williams in the US Open final in 2018, she became Japan’s first ever Grand Slam champion and she is also the first Asian player to hold the world number one status in singles.
The 24-year-old won another title at Flushing Meadows two years later and has also won the Australian Open twice. In 2021, she lit the Olympic cauldron at the Tokyo Games.
Osaka is one of the most marketable sportspeople in the world and was named the highest earning female athlete in 2020.
But it hasn’t just been her actions on the court that have made her the influential figure she is today.
Activism and mental health awareness
Osaka was named one of the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportspersons of the Year for her activism during the US Open that year, which she went on to win.
The Japanese star wore face masks with the names of seven different Black individuals whose death had come at the hands of police brutality.
The names on the masks included Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castle and Tamir Rice. Osaka described the face coverings as her way of using her platform to protest against racial injustice.
The former world number one has most recently become an advocate for mental health awareness after she boycotted media duties at Roland Garros to take a stand against how press conferences can have a negative impact on players’ mental wellbeing.
Osaka later revealed she had been suffering from bouts of depression and anxiety herself, before taking a break from tennis.
Following her time away, Osaka is back on the court and looking to improve her game. Earlier this week, she admitted she is finally back to enjoying herself while playing.
The “natural next step”
Duguid and Osaka had reportedly been discussing their next business venture during the 2020 Olympics.
Duguid told Reuters that the two had been reflecting on the business models of some of the player’s mentors, like Kobe Bryant and Lebrun James, and described Evolve as “athlete-driven and focused on big picture brand building rather than quick checks with a commission attached.”
In an interview with Sportico, Osaka said: “I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional.
“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.”
Both Osaka and Duguid will hold equity stakes in Evolve and there is said to be no outside investments involved.