Blow for Wimbledon as Naomi Osaka follows Rafael Nadal in withdrawing

Tournament has also been hit by ticketing snags as fans unable to purchase online

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Wimbledon. Photo: Pete Kiehart/The New York Times

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Wimbledon. Photo: Pete Kiehart/The New York Times

 

Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal have pulled out of this year’s Wimbledon, depriving the tournament of two of its biggest stars.

Osaka, the world No 2, has decided to spend time with her friends and family as she recovers from the mental health issues that led her to miss the French Open. But, encouragingly, a statement from her management company IMG said she would return for her home Olympics next month.

“Naomi won’t be playing Wimbledon this year,” the statement read. “She is taking some personal time with friends and family. She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.”

Nadal, who won the last of his two All England Club titles in 2010, admitted the fortnight gap between the French Open and Wimbledon this year, rather than the usual three weeks, had played a significant part in his surprise announcement.

“It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discussing it with my team I understand that it is the right decision,” said the 35-year-old Spaniard, whose run at Roland Garros this year ended with an intensely physical 4hr 11min semi-final defeat by Novak Djokovic.

“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition.

“The fact that there has only been two weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate.”

Nadal, a double Olympic champion having won gold in the singles in Beijing in 2008 and in the doubles with Marc López in Rio in 2016, confirmed he would also miss the Tokyo Games.

“The Olympic Games always meant a lot and they were always a priority,” he added. “But prevention of any kind of excess in my body is a very important factor at this stage of my career in order to try to keep fighting for the highest level of competition and titles.”

The double whammy of losing Osaka and Nadal came on a day that Wimbledon’s new online ticket platform also faced numerous technical gremlins and complaints.

Up to 110,000 tickets went on sale at 1pm via the Wimbledon website, with another 60,000 made available to the Lawn Tennis Association’s Advantage members through another platform. However, thousands of frustrated fans complained on social media that they could not complete their purchase on the official site.

More than a million people had registered for the MyWimbledon website, which was used this year instead of the traditional ballot because of the pandemic. However, some fans complained they were unable to complete their order as they had not received a required unique code – while others complained that the site would not accept payment from them.

In a statement Wimbledon pledged that extra tickets would be made available on Friday – and said many of the problems were caused by people not opting in to receiving marketing communications so they could be legally contacted.

“We issued codes to each guest who had registered and opted in, so that we could protect the purchase of only one pair of tickets per guest,” the statement added. “These codes were unique to each individual and were all issued by 12.50pm, ahead of the sale commencing at 1pm.

“The vast majority of guests have had no issues and successfully purchased tickets. We appreciate the disappointment of those who were not able to get tickets on this occasion, but there will be additional opportunities to purchase tickets for this year’s Championships.”

Meanwhile a Wimbledon spokesperson said they respected the decisions of Osaka and Nadal to miss this year’s tournament.

“Naomi Osaka and Rafa Nadal will be greatly missed by all of us at Wimbledon this year but we completely understand their decisions,” the spokesperson added. “We wish Noami a happy time with her friends and family and look forward to welcoming her back to Wimbledon next year.” – Guardian

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