Naomi Osaka out of the Australian Open – is this the beginning of the end?

Naomi Osaka arrives on court

Two-time champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the Australian Open, in a move that will fuel suggestions she may be set to walk away from tennis for good.

Organisers confirmed on Sunday that Japan’s Osaka, the Open champion in 2019 and 2021, will not be playing in Melbourne.

“Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the Australian Open. We will miss her at #AO2023,” the tweet said.

The 25-year-old’s ranking has slipped to 47 and she has not played since September after withdrawing during the second round in Tokyo.

Osaka won her first-round match at that tournament when Australia’s Daria Saville withdrew after one game with a knee injury.

Osaka won only one completed match since May and was beaten in the first round of her three previous tournaments, including the US Open at which she also is a two-time champion.

With her business empire booming, the 25-year-old has been rumoured to be considering calling time on her tennis career for some time.

Her agency Evolve is currently working with a range of talent and confirmed they have signed up world No 2 Ons Jabeur earlier this month.

It remains to be seen whether Osaka will be joining Jabeur on court any time soon, with her own tennis career stalling.

After opening up about her mental health issues and the pressures she feels when taking her place both on the court and in dealing with the media, this latest withdrawal may e a sign that she will not be returning to the tour on a full-time basis.

In an interview with ABC in America last month, she confirmed her break from the sport after her withdrawal from the French Open in 2021 was needed to reset her mind.

“For me, I felt like it was necessary, but I felt ashamed in that moment,” she stated.

“As an athlete you’re kind of told to be strong and push through everything, but I think I learned that it’s better to re-group and adjust the feelings you have in that moment and you can come back stronger.

“I feel like I’m a very curious person, so I’ve really been grateful to have been given all these avenues to explore.

“So I’m definitely looking forward to doing a lot of stuff, but I am a tennis player, so, if I don’t play tennis for too long, I get an itch.”

Osaka has yet to comment on the reason why she will not be playing in Melbourne,

Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska has been promoted to the main draw in her place.

The Australian Open, which starts on January 16, has already has lost several leading players including men’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz who pulled out on Saturday with an ankle injury.