Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the Australian Open, the latest twist in an increasingly enigmatic career.
Australian Open announced the return of osaka in Melbourne on Sunday. Dayana Yastremska will now feature in the main draw of the tournament starting on 15 January.
Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, has not played since September when she withdrew from a match in Japan with abdominal pain.
Once destined to compete for the biggest championship in tennis for the next decade, Osaka has struggled to regain her form since taking two long breaks from competition in 2021.
Her first break came after she withdrew from that season’s French Open, where she went public with her longtime struggle with depression. She returned for the Olympic Games in midsummer, but after a disappointing opening round loss at the US Open, she announced an indefinite break.
Osaka returned to tour competition in Australia last January, and it seemed she was back on the road when she reached the final of the Miami Open in April. She said that she wants to be number 1 again. But an Achilles tendon injury cut short her clay-court season and kept her from playing at Wimbledon.
Osaka then won just one match during the summer hardcourt swing in North America, a disappointing result as Osaka was once considered the world’s leading hardcourt player. The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, is also played on hard courts.
Despite her limited playing time and a ranking that peaked at No. 85 in the world last February, Osaka remains one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, with endorsement deals that have brought her annual earnings to more than $50 million. Is, according to forbes,
And she stays very busy off the court. Osaka launched a representation agency in May to exercise further control over its growing business portfolio. Osaka and her longtime agent Stuart Duguid left sports and entertainment conglomerate IMG to start Evolve. Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has since joined the agency as well.
At the time, Duguid said Osaka’s main priority was winning tennis matches and tournaments, but launching Evolve allowed her to incorporate her interests in culture and business.
“She’s not the type to play video games all day and binge on Netflix,” said Duguid, who has worked closely with Osaka since they were teenagers.
Duguid predicted that Osaka’s business portfolio could grow to $150 million annually in the coming years through investments and ventures such as Kinlo, a skin care product company focused on people with darker skin.
In December, Osaka released “The Way Champs Play”, a children’s book. She wrote that she hopes the book “inspires kids to chase their dreams and encourages them to believe they can do anything they set their mind to.”
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