After a hiatus in 2020, Wimbledon officials could not wait to get the tournament up and running this year.
But their plans for an SW19 for the ages have been dealt a double blow with the news that Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have both opted out of playing on the grass courts of the All England Club.
It’s a terrible frustration for tournament officials, who also had to explain away the technical problems that saw those attempting to buy tickets on Thursday face long queues and then be unable to complete their transaction.
With just two weeks between the French Open and the start of Wimbledon – a shorter gap than ever before – Nadal has taken the choice to withdraw from the event and the subsequent Olympic Games in Tokyo in July and August.
The Spaniard, a two-time Wimbledon champion, has cited the brief recovery period as the main reason for his decision, essentially insinuating that he has chosen the French and US Opens over a tilt at the grass court title.
Hi all, I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) June 17, 2021
The 35-year-old has chosen the polar opposite path to Roger Federer, who started out at Roland Garros before withdrawing after the third round in order to protect his troublesome knee for Wimbledon.
Nadal was involved in an epic semi-final loss at the French Open to Novak Djokovic, and that was a defeat that takes significant time to recover from both physically and mentally. That followed a long clay court season which the Spaniard admits has taken its toll.
“They have been two months of great effort, and the decision I take is focused looking at the mid and long term,” he confirmed.
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy.”
It’s not all doom and gloom for the men’s singles at Wimbledon, however, with Andy Murray handed a wildcard. The home favourite looked competitive at Queen’s Club, where he defeated Benoit Paire and gave world number nine Matteo Berrettini a good run for his money.
Osaka Takes a Pass On the Grass Season
After her much publicised withdrawal from the French Open, the hope was that Naomi Osaka would make her major return at Wimbledon.
She has spoken of her battles with anxiety and mental health, and had refused to participate in any media duties – she was fined more than £10,000 when failing to show at the press conference after winning her opening round match.
Officials at Wimbledon had admitted to contacting Osaka’s team in the hope of opening up some dialogue about that situation, however the Japanese ace has decided not to attempt to add another Grand Slam title to her haul of four and will instead focus on a home return at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Sally Bolton, the chief executive of Wimbledon, confirmed that officials had ‘started a consultation’ with Osaka, but in the end it has come to nothing.