Naomi Osaka is set to compete at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Japan's tennis association announced Thursday that Naomi Osaka, a former world number one, has received approval to represent Japan at the upcoming Paris Olympics.  The Japan Tennis Association confirmed that former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori has also been granted approval to participate.

Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, famously lit the cauldron at the delayed Tokyo Games' opening ceremony in 2021 and advanced to the third round in singles competition. Since then, she has become a mother and resumed her tennis career late last year following a 15-month maternity break.

Currently ranked 125th globally, the 26-year-old received clearance from the International Tennis Federation to compete in Paris through a special ranking provided to players returning to the tour, as reported by the JTA. 

Following her participation for Japan in the Billie Jean King Cup in Tokyo this April, Osaka expressed her enthusiasm, stating, "I would love to play" in Paris, according to the media outlet.

"Growing up watching the Olympics on TV, I felt that it was a celebration of sport," Osaka said. I thought it brought everyone together and just to be able to be an athlete there and interact with other athletes is one of the funnest things that I've ever done."

Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been told she can represent Japan at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been told she can represent Japan at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

"And if I do play, I have high ambitions of myself and I hope that I can do really well and get a medal," she added. Osaka recently secured her first victory on grass since 2019 with a commanding 6-2, 6-4 win over fourth seed Elise Mertens at the Libema Open. Her last match on this surface was a first-round loss at Wimbledon in 2019.

“I'm kind of taking it as if this is my first year on grass," Osaka said after defeating Mertens. "I think even now, this is my first time at this tournament so in some ways I feel like a newbie all over again. I've been in Europe since April, so this is a lot of commitment for me. I'm really happy that I'm doing this."

Her most notable achievement thus far was reaching the quarter-finals in Qatar, and she concluded her clay season by providing eventual champion Iga Swiatek with her toughest challenge at the French Open. Osaka's win against Mertens marked only her 23rd career match on grass courts. 

"I play better in the big stages against the best players," added Osaka. "I think I've always been that way. It's more that I need to keep that level in smaller events."