World number two Naomi Osaka has decided to extend her period of absence from the sport and will not take part in this year’s Wimbledon.
The Japanese star caused controversy at Roland-Garros recently when she refused to take part in mandatory media duties, leading her to be fined $15,000 and other Grand Slams to threaten expulsion, should she take the same action.
The 23-year-old then subsequently withdrew from the competition for mental health reasons, admitting she’d been suffering from anxiety and depression since the final of the US Open in 2018.
Osaka is now spending some time with friends and family but is planning to play in the Olympics this summer in Tokyo.
The four-time major winner will have the crowd on her side in Japan and says she is “excited to play in front of her fans.”
The former world number one previously stated that she wanted to “discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton has stressed that the All England Club are already looking at ways of improving its media operations, telling BBC Radio that “a consultation” between Osaka and her team had begun.
Tournament director Jamie Baker added to this by emphasising that the phone lines were always open should any issues need to be discussed.
While it’s encouraging that Osaka is set to return in just six weeks for the Olympics, her withdrawal is a huge blow for Wimbledon, with Rafael Nadal also pulling out the men’s draw.
Nadal says he needs time to “recuperate after a long clay-court season” and will not take part in the competition after choosing to listen to his body.
The Spanish star will also miss Tokyo as he tries to prolong his career for as long as possible.
Nadal’s decision mirrors that of Roger Federer, who pulled out of the French Open after three rounds to focus on contending for a ninth Wimbledon title.
Osaka’s reasons for missing tennis’ oldest major are not entirely the same as Nadal’s, but it does once again raise the question of the gap between Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.
Because of the scheduling problems related to the pandemic, there is just a two-week gap between the two Slams, giving next to no time for the likes of Nadal to recover and just as little for Osaka to improve her state of mind.
Equally, world number one Ashleigh Barty and defending Wimbledon champion Simona Halep have both been battling injuries and the short turnaround also raises doubts over their fitness.
Wimbledon begins on Monday 28th June.