Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the BNP Paribas Open next month, continuing the break from tennis that she announced at the US Open.
The withdrawal was announced by the official Twitter feed for the hard-court tournament at Indian Wells, which is scheduled for October 4 to 17 after twice being delayed during the pandemic.
Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1, who is currently eighth in the WTA rankings.
Her title defence at the US Open had ended with a third-round loss to eventual runner-up Leylah Fernandez. After that defeat, Osaka said she did not know when she would play her next tennis match.
Osaka, a 23-year-old who was born in Japan and now is based in the US, took time off earlier this season, a mental health break that began when she withdrew from the French Open before her second-round match.
She also sat out Wimbledon, then returned for the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron during the opening ceremony.
It was at the Indian Wells WTA 1000 event that Osaka won her first title in 2018.
Osaka has been open about her struggles with mental health. At the French Open this year, she said she would not do media interactions as they affected her mentally, but this led to a row with tournament officials, leading to her withdrawal from the grand slam event.
After her US Open loss, Osaka broke down at her press conference, saying that she does not feel happy when she wins, and that that was not normal.
“This is very hard to articulate. Basically, I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match. I’m sorry,” she said, before leaving the press room.
All eyes at the BNP Paribas Open in California will now be on teenage US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who is on course to make it to the end-of-the-season WTA Tour Finals.
Despite having played only four WTA Tour level events this year, she is ranked 22 in the latest standings, and should she progress far at the Indian Wells event, she might actually make the cut for the season ender in Mexico.
The eight players that collect the most points in the calendar year get to play in the Finals, last won by Ash Barty in 2019.
(With inputs from PTI)