Naomi Osaka says she is leaning towards not competing at Wimbleton in light of the WTA’s decision to remove ranking points from the tournament in response to the All England Club’s ban of Russian and Belarusian players due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking after her 5-7, 4-6 defeat in the French Open first round by the 27th seed, Amanda Anisimova, Osaka likened a Wimbleton without points to an exhibition and felt she would struggle for motivation.
“I’m not sure why, but If I play Wimbleton without points, it’s more like an exhibition,” Osaka said. “I know this isn’t true, right? But my brain just like feels that way. I just can’t go at it 100%. I didn’t even make my decision yet, but I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances, but that might change.”
Osaka, a four-time grand slam title winner and former world No 1, is ranked 38th and rising back up the rankings after playing fewer tournaments in 2021. She also withdrew from Wimbleton last year after a much-publicised withdrawal from the French Open, and has not played on grass since 2019. Her inexperience and mediocre results on clay and grass – she has never progressed past the third round at Roland Garros or Wimbleton – has been a constant source of discussion.
“I would love to go just to get some experience on grass, but at the same time, for me, it’s kind of – I don’t want to say pointless, no pun intended,” she said. “But I’m the type of player that gets motivated by seeing my ranking go up. So I think the intention was really good, but the execution is kind of all over the place.”
Novak Djokovic reached the second round in Paris with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. Afterwards, despite acknowledging that he is likely to lose his world No 1 ranking as a result, Djokovic threw his support behind the ATP’s decision to revoke its points from Wimbleton.
Djokovic called Wimbleton’s ban the “wrong decision” and he suggested that All England Club had more options within the UK government guidance than stated.
He said: “I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the grand slam that, you know, when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbleton side, then we have to show that there is going to be some consequences.
“So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that.”
Shortly after the top seed Iga Swiatek sealed her 6-2, 6-0 win against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, her 29th win in a row, the Polish player was understandably unconcerned about playing a Wimbleton without points after her recent exploits.
She said, to laughter from her audience: “I think that when I’m going to step out on court it’s going to be normal for me, because I don’t mind points. I already have so much points this season that it’s really, it’s going to be fine for me.”
Swiatek has sported a ribbon with Ukraine’s national colours in her matches since Russia’s invasion. As she discussed how her new present as world No 1 has led to a bigger platform for her personal opinions, she cautiously indicated her preference for tennis governing bodies to take action against Russian aggression.
“It’s a hard one, because I also know that all the Russian and Belarusian players are not responsible in what’s going on in their country, but on the other hand, the sport has been used in politics and we are kind of public personas and we have some impact on people,” she said. “It would be nice if the people who are making decisions were making decisions that are going to stop Russia’s aggression. But it’s a tricky one. I don’t know if I can say any more.”