US Open champion Osaka withdraws from French Open

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Freshly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka (pic below) pulled out of the French Open with a sore hamstring on Thursday, in a fresh blow to the coronavirus-hit Grand Slam which is already missing world number one Ashleigh Barty.

Japan’s Osaka made the announcement just days after lifting her third major title behind closed doors at the US Open in New York, the first Grand Slam tournament possible since the pandemic.

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” Osaka said in posts on Instagram and Twitter.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have enough time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this year.”

The French Open is due to start on September 27 at Roland Garros, rescheduled from earlier in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The withdrawal of third-ranked Osaka means Roland Garros will be missing two of the world’s top three, after reigning champion Barty said earlier this month that she wouldn’t return to defend her title.

The Australian said she feared participation still carried health risks, and she had not been able to train with her coach because of the state border closures in her home country.

Osaka’s announcement also came just hours after French Open organisers were forced to slash daily attendance from 11,500 to 5,000 as coronavirus cases surge in France. Last Sunday, Osaka rallied from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the US Open women’s final, adding a third major trophy after her 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open triumphs.

The 22-year-old was the first woman to win the US Open singles final from a set down since 1994, and the victory moved her to third in the WTA rankings.

She also became the first Asian player to win three Grand Slams, overtaking China’s Li Na on two.

Osaka pocketted USD3 million for the victory, another big haul for the player who in May was reported by Forbes to be the highest paid female athlete in the world, the magazine calculating her earnings over the prior 12 months at USD37.4 million.

Osaka, who has never made it out of the third round of the French Open, did not say when she will play next.

She did assure her fans they would see her “sooner than later”.