Tennis fans were stunned Monday with the news that both Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal plan to skip the All England Cup at Wimbledon. The two had different reasons for skipping the event, but each announced their intentions to skip the grand slam only a few hours apart on Monday.
Rafael Nadal, the 35-year-old Spaniard who is close to overtaking Roger Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles, has decided to skip Wimbledon for the sake of his body. Nadal historically has experienced issues when transitioning from clay-court play to grass-court play. The decision to push the clay-court season back gave Nadal only two weeks to transition to grass-court practice.
“The fact that there has only been two weeks between RG (Roland Garros) and Wimbledon, didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay-court season,” Nadal tells reporters.
“They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term.”
Moreover, Nadal has also decided to skip the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in July. The event will miss the number three ranked men’s tennis player, and fans are disappointed he won’t be competing. However, many online expressed their understanding that Nadal needs to focus on his health if he is to remain a top-caliber athlete in his field.
Naomi Osaka, the world’s number two ranked women’s player, has also bowed out of the Wimbledon competition. Two weeks ago, Osaka withdrew from the French Open competition citing mental health concerns. Her decision to skip a media appearance following a loss sparked controversy, with some outlets condemning what they saw as an athlete using her fame to bend the rules.
Osaka’s fans, however, defended the pro’s decision to avoid getting grilled in front of cameras after a tough loss. Wimbledon took the news in stride, with the official Twitter account for the event tweeting “You’ll be greatly missed, @naomiosaka – wishing you all the best at home and the Olympics and hope to welcome you back next year.”
Unlike Nadal, Osaka will be attending the Tokyo Olympics. Many of Osaka’s fans in her home country will be delighted to see their favorite player on the court once again. Media promotions for the Tokyo Olympics feature Osaka’s likeness prominently, as her participation is expected to draw in viewers. The Olympic Games have struggled to recover from being postponed, so having one of Japan’s biggest star athletes on the court will be important for morale.