Wimbledon boss makes massive call on Naomi Osaka's participation

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Pictured here, Naomi Osaka in action during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.
Wimbledon chiefs say they expect Naomi Osaka to compete at the All England Club in 2021. Pic: Getty

UPDATE: Naomi Osaka has since announced her withdrawal from Wimbledon.

Wimbledon organisers said on Wednesday they had been in discussions with Naomi Osaka's team and expected the Japanese star to return from her break from tennis and play in the grand slam tournament at the All England Club.

Osaka announced she was taking a break from tennis on mental health grounds after sensationally pulling out of the French Open.

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The 23-year-old was initially fined and threatened with expulsion from future tournaments after refusing to attend press conferences at Roland Garros.

The four-time major winner then shocked the tennis world by withdrawing from the French Open before her second round match.

Many former tennis players and commentators have expressed doubts that the World No.2 would be in the right headspace to compete at Wimbledon, just weeks after deciding to take a break from the sport because of mental health issues.

However, Wimbledon chiefs have offered a positive update on the Japanese superstar, who they're confident will be part of the tournament which gets underway at the end of this month.

"We've reached out to her team, we haven't spoken to Naomi herself," Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton said. 

"At this point in time she's entered into the Championships and we haven't received confirmation that she won't compete."

Tournament director Jamie Baker added: "I had the conversation with her team. It's absolutely clear that we're here, we're completely open for any discussions when they want to have that.

"Hopefully it goes without saying that we want the best players competing here no matter what.

"We treat every single player with a tremendous amount of care. That's one of the main reasons for me and my role. We've been building those relationships so there's a constant, ongoing dialogue and we will just continue to behave in this way."

Naomi Osaka is seen here in action at the 2021 French Open.
Naomi Osaka in action at the French Open. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Wimbledon greats receive wildcards

In other positive news for tennis fans, former Wimbledon champions Andy Murray and Venus Williams have been awarded wildcards for this year's championships that start in two weeks.

Two-time winner Murray, who played just his third ATP singles match of the year at Queen's Club on Tuesday, is ranked down at 124, which is outside the cut-off for direct qualification.

Murray will be joined by fellow British players Katie Boulter, Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Samantha Murray Sharan, Francesca Jones, Liam Broady, Jay Clarke and 19-year-old Jack Draper, who won his maiden ATP Tour match at Queen's on Monday.

Five-time champion Williams - the older sister of Serena - and Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz have also been given wildcards into the main draw.

Seen here, Andy Murray and Venus Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in 2009.
Andy Murray and Venus Williams at the Sony Ericsson Open in 2009. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Sony Ericsson)

This year's tournament begins on Monday, June 28 with prizemoney a little over 35 million pounds ($A64 million), a 5.2 per cent reduction from 2019 when the grass court grand slam was last held.

Last year's competition was called off because of COVID-19.

The singles champions will bear the maximum hit to their earnings and will pocket 1.7 million pounds ($A3.12 million), down from the 2.35 million ($A4.31 million) they were paid in 2019.

"As in previous years, and particularly in this challenging year for tour players, the focus of distribution has been on supporting players in the early rounds of the tournament," organisers All England Club said in a statement.

"Only four players (finalists and semi-finalists) in each singles draw will receive prizemoney at a lower level than was awarded in 2019."

Players participating in the qualifiers will see a 17.5 per cent increase in overall prizemoney allocation while the wheelchair and quad wheelchair events will also get a 17 per cent boost.

Organisers also confirmed the men's and women's singles finals will be played with full crowds of 15,000 in attendance on Centre Court, making it the first outdoor sporting event in the United Kingdom to have full capacity since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

with agencies

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