UPDATE: Osaka is set to open her Australian Open title defense on Sunday evening against María Camila Osorio Serrano.
World No. 14 and defending champion Naomi Osaka is in Australia preparing for the 2022 Australian Open, but her status is a bit unclear two days before the tournament draw takes place.
Osaka was playing in the Melbourne Summer Set 1 and had advanced to the semifinals having dropped only one set in three matches. However, Osaka withdrew from her semifinal match against Veronika Kudermetova, citing a shock to her body after her recent break from tennis.
Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took. Thank you for all the love this past week ❤️ I’ll try to rest up and I’ll see you soon!— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 8, 2022
While this would normally be concerning about her prospects of playing in the first Grand Slam of the 2022 calendar, tennis report José Morgado noted she has previously withdrawn from a warm-up event only to go on to win the subsequent Grand Slam tournament. She did so in 2020 leading up to the US Open and then a year ago leading up to the Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka pulls out of her semifinal vs. Kudermetova later today (abdominal injury).— José Morgado (@josemorgado) January 8, 2022
Maybe not so bad news: she did the same in the two warm-up events before her last two Slam wins (US Open 2020 and AusOpen 2021)
Regardless, the withdrawal stings for Osaka because it changes her likely draw on Thursday and will result in her having to play one of the top four seeds in the round of 16. That group will include Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Barbora Krejčíková.