Naomi Osaka Withdraws from 2023 Australian Open; Replaced by Ukraine's Yastremska

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 8, 2023

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 19: Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a forehand looks frustrated during her nmatch against Madison Brengle of the United States during day three of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 19, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)
TPN/Getty Images

The Australian Open announced on Sunday that two-time champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from this year's event.

Dayana Yastremska claimed a spot in the main draw as a result.

Osaka hasn't competed since the 2022 Toray Pan Pacific Open last September. Beatriz Haddad Maia received a walkover in the second round after she withdrew due to illness.

Tennis fans have been spoiled by Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djoković and Rafael Nadal. All four continued playing at a high level deep into their 30s, with Nadal winning the 2022 French Open shortly after he turned 36.

Osaka's recent downturn is a reminder of how even the biggest names typically don't get to enjoy a lot of longevity. Racquet's Ben Rothenberg noted how the list of recent Australian Open champions reflects that fact as well.

Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg

Recent <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AusOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AusOpen</a> women's champs and their 2023 status for the event:<br><br>2022—Barty—Retired<br>2021—Osaka—Out<br>2020—Kenin—In, ranked #227<br>2019—Osaka—Out<br>2018—Wozniacki—Retired<br>2017—Serena—Retired<br>2016—Kerber—Out (pregnant)<br>2015—Serena—Retired<br>2014—Li—Retired<br>2013—Azarenka—In, ranked #26

When Osaka won four Grand Slam titles by the age of 23, it looked like she was only getting started. Instead, it looks like her best tennis may already be behind her just two years later.

The Japanese star took a mental health break midway through the 2021 season, yet her performance across the 2022 campaign was down to more than just shaking off the rust. She went 14-9 in singles events, losing in the third round of the Australian Open and failing to navigate past the first round in the French Open and U.S. Open.

Osaka is the same age as Ashleigh Barty when the three-time Grand Slam champion hung up her racket in 2022. Justin Henin, 25, and Kim Clijsters, 23, were in their mid-20s when they walked away from the sport, though they both made comebacks years later.

There's nothing to indicate retirement is a possibility for Osaka right now, but she is clearly planning for life after tennis. Just as it did for many others, the end for her may come more abruptly than fans realize.