Japanese professional tennis player Naomi Osaka is gearing up for a return to the court following a year-long hiatus. The 26-year-old last took to the tennis court on tour last September, then took a break this season to welcome her first child. Having given birth in July, the athlete is preparing to return come January, likely participating in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.
In honor of her return, we’re reminiscing on another momentous occasion in her multi-faceted career. Fresh off of a US Open title in 2020, Osaka made her SI Swimsuit debut in a big way: She graced the cover of the 2021 issue in a fabulous photo taken by photographer Yu Tsai in Malibu, Calif.
The incredible athlete made her mark in those photos, posing in a series of glamorous swimsuits in the golden West Coast sunlight. For Osaka, “it [felt] like a dream,” she said while on set. Having seen “so many incredible women grace [the] cover” while growing up, she understood the immensity of the moment.
And she was up for the challenge, too. The former world No. 1 made an impression on the beaches of California, as she is likely to do in her return to the court. Here are a few of our favorites from the trip.
Now through Nov. 1, 100% of SI Swimsuit’s portion of proceeds from cover prints purchased here will be donated to the Maui Strong Fund, which is helping to support the people and places of Maui affected by the recent wildfires.