Four-Time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Australian Open

After taking a break from tennis in September due to mental health reasons, hopes of seeing Naomi Osaka return to the court have been dashed as the star instead chose to withdraw from the upcoming Australian Open competition.

In 2019, crowds flocked to Rod Laver arena to witness Naomi Osaka prove her tenacity and relentless drive as she took the Australian Open title in a thrilling three-set victory. Hers was the name known in households around the world; the playing technique coaches were quick to instruct younger players to emulate; the face that sponsors were quick to have plastered on billboards and advertisements. But in the time that has since elapsed, Osaka has largely retreated from the world and the tennis court that made her a star. Despite an impressive reign that saw her win four Grand Slam tournaments and sit atop the rankings at number one, her enthusiasm for the game waned when she began experiencing significant mental health issues that led her to take a break from the sport in September of 2021. 

For fans of Osaka, it was hoped that she would make a triumphant return to the court this January at the Australian Open 2023. But now, it’s been revealed that Osaka has officially withdrawn form the competition, joining a long list of big names who have found themselves casualties of injury. 

Osaka, who has not played since September, has continued to post pictures to her social media of her time off, largely spent with her US rapper boyfriend, Cordae, as they went travelling around Europe. Together, they’ve taken in the Mona Lisa and various concerts before returning home to their Los Angeles base last week. 

As The Guardian reports, with Osaka’s withdrawal, concerns are growing as to whether we will ever see her return to the sport again. With no evidence of the star preparing for any upcoming tournaments or games as of late, her future on the court seems uncertain after she detailed struggling with depression and anxiety for several years, issues that were heightened by the intense scrutiny that comes with competitive sport. 

The Japanese player has not played since withdrawing from the second round in Tokyo last September with abdominal pains and has won only one completed match since May 2021, seeing her WTA ranking fall to 47th. While Osaka’s future in the sport might be unknown, we can only hope that she’s happy and healthy, enjoying the life she is now creating for herself outside of the sport. 

For the Australian Open organisers, the field presenting this year is an interesting one. With former heavy-hitters Serena Williams and Roger Federer having retired, alongside last year’s reigning women’s champion, Ash Barty, the possibility of a new champion seems inevitable, particularly when you consider that for the men’s tournament, world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz has pulled out with a hamstring injury. In the women’s competition, Venus Williams also had to pull out after being hurt while practising in Auckland. 

The first round of the Australian Open starts Monday 16, January and runs through to the 29th, January. 

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