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Naomi Osaka is sending Australian Open officials into a tizzy

Naomi Osaka is MIA in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Naomi Osaka is MIA in the lead-up to the Australian Open. Photo: Getty

Naomi Osaka, one of the biggest tennis stars in the world, is making Australian Open organisers a little nervous.

The former world no.1 is listed on the Australian Open’s main draw entry list, but no announcements have been made regarding when she’ll play a match in the lead up, nor is it certain she will even be at Melbourne Park.

She hasn’t played a match since September 2022, nor will she play (at this stage) in any of the traditional lead up events to the Australian Open.

The two-time Australian Open champion is cutting it close, with qualifiers set to begin Monday (Osaka won’t have to qualify for the tournament though), and Round 1 to start from January 16.

Australian Open officials have not addressed the issue publicly, but are reported to be “desperately” trying to confirm Osaka’s playing status and whereabouts.

This year’s start to the Grand Slam season is already featuring a stark shortage of megastars, following the 2022 retirements of Ash Barty, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer.

For her part, Osaka has remained conspicuously quiet about her plans.

On Friday morning, instead of answering questions about her Australian Open plans, Osaka used her social media accounts to announce her athlete management agency Evolve has signed women’s tennis world No. 2 Ons Jabeur.

It’s a major scoop for Evolve, which Osaka co-founded with her longtime agent Stuart Duguid last year.

In a glowing written statement detailing her history with Jabeur, Osaka was full of praise.

“Over the years watching her rise through the tour and become the star that she is has been incredibly joyful to watch and I can’t wait to see her create more history and ascend even higher,” Osaka said.

Jabeur is the second athlete to sign with Evolve after Australian star player Nick Kyrgios made the move last year.

Tennis Australia and representatives for Naomi Osaka did not respond to TND‘s requests for comment.

Kyrgios drops out of Australian Open warm-ups

Coincidentally, Nick Kyrgios has already caused a storm at the Australian Open after he pulled out of the second of the Adelaide International warm-up events with an ankle injury.

However, Kyrgios is still expected to play at the Australian Open, with his manager Daniel Horsfall telling media the star is “working every day” to make sure he’s ready.

“A lot of people were upset after he pulled out of the United Cup, but I hope they now realise the injury is genuine,” Mr Horsfall said.

“I wish more people would ask questions before putting in their two cents.”

On Thursday, Novak Djokovic confirmed he’s planning to play the Australian in a practice match in Melbourne, although Kyrgios has requested they play shorter sets.

Mended fences: Two of tennis’ biggest headline-makers are finally mates after years of back-and-forth barbed comments. Photo: Getty.

“I’m happy if that will be organised; we’re still not having 100 per cent confirmation, but I think most likely will happen with Nick, so I’m looking forward to that,” Djokovic said.

The news comes after the relationship between the two tennis stars softened into a ‘bromance’ following years of animosity, during which Kyrgios labelled the Serbian player a “tool”.

Despite their frosty beginnings, Djokovic said the relationship took a turn for the better when Kyrgios offered public support amidst his COVID vaccination drama that eventually saw Djokovic deported from Australia.

Osaka’s mental health trials

While Osaka has kept mum over her Australian Open plans, she previously withdrew from the French Open and simultaneously revealed struggles with “long bouts” of depression since 2018.

The decision of the former world no. 1 (currently world no. 42) to withdraw came after she was fined $15,000 ($19,400) for refusing to attend obligatory press conferences for players after matches

“Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety,” she said at the time.

Osaka hasn’t played since withdrawing from the second round in Tokyo in September with abdominal pains, and has only won a single completed match since May.

With the eyes of the tennis world focused on Osaka to work out her next move, she might again be taking a step back for her mental wellbeing.

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