Naomi Osaka joins list of big names missing Australian Open

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Two-time Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka became the latest star to crash out of the year’s opening Grand Slam on Sunday, leaving the tournament deprived of some of the sport’s biggest names.

No reason was given for the Japanese player’s withdrawal and organizers Tennis Australia tweeted: “We will miss him at AO2023.”

Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska was promoted to the main draw at Melbourne Park in his absence.

Osaka has not played a competitive match since September and reports last week said Tennis Australia was having trouble confirming her whereabouts despite being on the official entry list.

The 25-year-old’s social media accounts indicated she was traveling in Europe with her on-and-off, off-again boyfriend, rapper Corday.

His performance was another blow to the tournament starting on January 16 after US Open champion and world number one Carlos Alcaraz pulled out on Friday due to a right foot problem.

Veteran American Venus Williams will also miss out on the Auckland Classic last week after suffering an injury and returning a wildcard.

Open organizers were already reeling from the retirements of women’s champion Ashleigh Barty and legends Serena Williams and Roger Federer last year.

Former world number one and two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep is not playing after being provisionally suspended in October for taking banned substance Roxadastat.

But nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is back after missing out on last year’s event when he was deported because of his vaccination status.

Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal, who won the 2022 title in Djokovic’s absence, will also be in line to take over the top seed from Alcaraz.

Osaka, champion in Melbourne in 2019 and 2021, last slipped to 42 in the world rankings before pulling out of a tournament in Tokyo in September with abdominal pain.

The four-time Grand Slam winner has previously spoken about her struggles with mental health and spent the whole of 2022 outside the top 10 after first round losses at both the French and US Opens. She withdrew from Wimbledon due to an Achilles injury.

Speaking at the Pan Pacific Open in September, she admitted she had gone through “more downs” in 2022.

“This year has not been my best year, but I have learned a lot about myself,” said Osaka, who won the Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and 2020.

“Life has ups and downs, and this year had more downs than ups, but overall I’m very happy with where I am now.”

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