Naomi Osaka started the year by winning her fourth major at the Australian Open. Now, as the season reaches its climax, the Japanese star has taken an indefinite break from tennis and may not feature again for some time.
While each of this year’s Grand Slams have been completed, there is still all to play for at the season-ending WTA Finals, which will be played in Guadalajara, Mexico.
After her win in Melbourne in February, Osaka was leading the race to the Finals, but following her extended absence from the game, which saw her miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, the 24-year-old now finds herself in 11th position.
World number one Ashleigh Barty has announced she will not take part in this year’s tournament –– citing a need to rest and prepare for next year after a gruelling season.
The Australian’s absence means the top nine players will qualify for Guadalajara, with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur currently occupying the all-important ninth spot as it stands.
Jabeur is the first Arab tennis player to ever be ranked inside the world’s top 10 and won her maiden WTA title this year at the Birmingham Classic.
While Osaka is less than 300 points behind Jabeur and could mathematically catch the Tunisian, she is still to announce her return to tennis, having revealed she was taking a break from the game after the US Open.
The former world number one stressed in September that she had the “itch” to play again soon, but has made no further comment on her return since then.
It therefore looks almost certain that Osaka will not compete in Mexico this year and will likely continue to slip down the rankings.
Such is the nature of the ranking system, Osaka’s success in previous years will begin to count against her the more she doesn’t play, and the Japanese sensation is in danger of falling out of the world’s top 10.
Though Osaka appears to be out of the running for Guadalajara, there’s still a chance for others to steal the final spots.
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit won last week’s Kremlin Cup to rise up to 10th in the standings, while Britain’s Emma Raducanu needs about 800 points to catch Jabeur.
Raducanu catapulted up the world rankings last month after winning the US Open but suffered a second-round defeat at Indian Wells a fortnight ago to dent her qualification hopes.
The British number one is competing this week though at the Transylvanian Open and faces Polona Hercog in her opening match on Centre Court today.
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