Naomi Osaka, the number two ranked tennis player in the world, announced on Thursday that she would not be competing in Wimbledon this year. Osaka previously withdrew from the French Open and the Women’s Tennis Associations grass tournament in Berlin which was set to begin next week. ESPN reports that Osaka is withdrawing to “[take] some personal time with friends and family” but that she will be prepared to compete at the Tokyo Olympics, should that event ever come to pass.
Earlier, there was a slight bit of hope in the air that Osaka would be at Wimbledon when multiple outlets reported that the organizers for the tournament had been in touch with Osaka and other players about media obligations. Organizers for Wimbledon claimed they were conducting “consultations” with athletes that involved their teams and representatives from the media, although it’s not clear what was discussed. Whatever it was, it was not enough to convince Osaka that her mental health would be taken into account should she choose to appear at Wimbledon.
Since withdrawing from the French Open, Osaka has held the attention of the tennis world, with fans wondering when she will next appear—which simply goes to show her power as a player. Despite the fact that someone else won the French Open (Barbora Krejčíková), the focus remains on Osaka, the future of the sport, and the player working to change it in the present.
While her performance will be missed this year at Wimbledon, her absence speaks volumes. It tells everyone who doubted her intention behind withdrawing from the French Open in the first place that this isn’t some publicity stunt. What fans and media are witnessing is a much-needed shift in the tennis world where the final say comes from players and not from sponsors or tournament organizers. And what Naomi Osaka is saying loud and clear is she will no longer put her mental health on the backburner to appease her tennis overlords.