Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the Australian Open, joining a growing list of stars missing from the grand slam at Melbourne Park. The four-time grand slam champion has sparked concerns about her immediate future in tennis after it emerged on Thursday that organisers didn't even know where Osaka was.
The Japanese star wasn't scheduled to play at any of the lead-up events in Australia or New Zealand, leading to question marks about her status for the Australian Open. On Sunday afternoon organisers announced that Osaka had withdrawn.
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Ukrainian player Dayana Yastremska has been promoted to the main draw in Osaka's absence. A two-time Australian Open champion., Osaka hasn't played in four months, with her last match coming at the Pan Pacific Open in Japan in September.
Osaka posted a photo with rapper boyfriend Cordae in Paris last week, leading to speculation she'd been holidaying in Europe and not training. However it has since emerged that the trip took place last October, with Osaka only posting the photos now.
Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, is apparently back in Los Angeles after being tagged in a photo from a pilates studio in suburban LA. However she had shown no signs of preparing for the grand slam at Melbourne Park.
Fans have taken to social media to express their dismay at Osaka's apparent lack of preparation, with a number seemingly blaming her boyfriend for her not playing tennis.
Concerns are now growing that the 25-year-old might not return to tennis at all. She took a mental health break from the sport after sitting out the French Open in 2021, later revealing she'd been struggling with depression and anxiety for a number years.
A number of injuries have also plagued her over the last two years and she has subsequently fallen down the rankings. The Japanese superstar hasn't played since withdrawing from the second round in Tokyo last September with abdominal pains.
She has won just one completed match since last May, losing in the first round of her previous three events, including the US Open. Along with her Australian Open titles she has also won the US Open twice. Her last victory came when Daria Saville retired hurt with an ACL injury after just one game in Tokyo.
Naomi Osaka adds to list of stars missing from Aus Open
Osaka's absence from the Australian Open is another major blow for organisers after a number of high-profile withdrawals in recent days. Men's World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz is out with a hamstring injury, while American champion Venus Williams has also withdrawn with injury.
Ash Barty, who won the title in 2022, has since retired, while Serena Williams and Roger Federer also called it quits last year. However 21-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic is back in action after missing the 2022 Open due to his vaccination status. Djokovic had his visa cancelled and was deported from the country before the Australian Open last January.
Rafa Nadal is also back to defend his crown, which he won in Djokovic's absence last year. Djokovic will be hell-bent on winning back the title - which would see him go level with Nadal on 22 career majors.
The draw for the Australian Open will take place next Thursday, with Nadal the new top seed on the men's side. Polish World No.1 Iga Swiatek is the women's top seed.
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