Sports

Naomi Osaka on the list of big names to miss the Australian Open


Two-time Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka became the latest star to pull out of the opening Grand Slam of the year on Sunday, leaving the tournament stripped of some of the biggest names in the game.

No reason for the Japanese player’s withdrawal was given with the tweet by Tennis Australia organizers: “We will miss her at AO2023.”

Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska was promoted to the main draw at Melbourne Park in her absence.

Osaka has not played a match since September and reports last week said that, despite being on the official list of participants, Tennis Australia is having difficulty verifying her whereabouts.

The 25-year-old’s social media accounts said she was traveling in Europe with her boyfriend, rapper Cordae.

Her absence is another blow to the tournament that began on January 16 after US Open champion and world number one Carlos Alcaraz withdrew on Friday because of a problem with his right foot.

American veteran Venus Williams will also be absent after picking up an injury at the Auckland Classic last week and returning the wildcard she was awarded.

Open organizers were already reeling from the retirement last year of defending women’s champion Ashleigh Barty and legends Serena Williams and Roger Federer.

Former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep is another non-competitor after she was temporarily suspended in October for taking the banned drug roxadustat.

But nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is back after missing last year’s event when he was expelled because of a vaccination condition.

Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal, who won the 2022 championship in Djokovic’s absence, will also feature, taking over from Alcaraz’s top seed.

Osaka, the Melbourne champions in 2019 and 2021, last played at a tournament in Tokyo in September before withdrawing due to stomach upset, dropping to 42nd in the world rankings.

The previous four-time Grand Slam champion has spoken about her struggles with her mental health and spent 2022 staying outside the top 10, enduring first-round defeats in both France and the US. Extend. She withdrew from Wimbledon due to an Achilles injury.

Speaking at the Pan Pacific Open in September, she admitted she’s been through “many ups and downs” in 2022.

“This year hasn’t been the best year for me but I’ve learned a lot about myself,” said Osaka, who also won Grand Slams at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and 2020.

“Life has many ups and downs, and this year has had many ups and downs, but overall I’m quite satisfied with where I am right now.”

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