May 12, 2022 - Economy

Naomi Osaka launching her own sports agency

A photo of a smiling Naomi Osaka.

(Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka is famous for a lot of reasons around the tennis court. And the 24-year-old star is now leaving sports agency powerhouse IMG to start her own representation company, Evolve, according to Sportico.

Why it matters: Osaka, born in Japan, is just the latest sports star to leave a traditional sports agency, as more top athletes seek to take control of their growing wealth and branch off into business interests away from the playing surface.

Details: Osaka's agent from IMG, Stuart Duguid, is joining Osaka to start Evolve. The new agency which oversees Osaka’s own business dealings but could potentially take on other clients.

Flashback: Osaka arrived on the world stage in 2018, at just 20 years old, when she beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final. She then won the next Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

  • She has gone on to win two more Grand Slam singles titles and has spent time as the number-one ranked player in women's tennis.

But she is also just as famous for the tournaments she didn't play in.

  • She famously withdrew from the French Open in 2021, after battling with tournament organizers about her public press conference commitments. Later that year she tearfully told reporters said she would step away from the game after a third-round upset loss at the U.S. Open.

Osaka quickly became the face of what would be become a movement for athletes to prioritize mental health over a win-at-all-costs culture in sports.

Meanwhile, she is the highest-paid female athlete in the world, for the second straight year, bringing in $57.3 million last year, according to Forbes.

  • More than $50 million of that total was made off the court, through more than 20 partnerships with brands like Louis Vuitton and Airbnb.
  • She also started a skin care company called Kinlò, a sunblock designed for Black and Brown skin tones, which earlier this month was made available at Walmart stores.

What they're saying: "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," Osaka told Sportico.

What to watch: Whether more athletes look to strike out on their own or choose to sign with smaller boutiques as the interests — and wealth — of modern athletes continue to grow.

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