Tennis: Osaka ready to boycott Wimbledon over ranking points row

Dave JAMES, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 24 2022 09:57 AM

Naomi Osaka of Japan plays Amanda Anisimova of the USA in their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 23 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE
Naomi Osaka of Japan plays Amanda Anisimova of the USA in their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 23 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE

PARIS, France -- Former world number one Naomi Osaka is prepared to boycott Wimbledon over the decision to strip the Grand Slam tournament of ranking points, admitting: "I'm leaning towards not playing".

"I would say the decision is kind of affecting my mentality going into grass, like I'm not 100% sure if I'm going to go there," said Osaka after her 7-5, 6-4 loss to Amanda Anisimova in the French Open first round on Monday.

The ATP and WTA tours last week removed ranking points from Wimbledon after the All England Club banned Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

"I'm leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances. I'm the type of player that gets motivated by seeing my ranking go up," added the four-time major winner.

"The intention of this measure was good, but the execution is all over the place. I'm sure there will be a bit of back and forth with the whole point situation. Then I guess I'll make my decision."

"I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it's more like an exhibition," added Osaka, who has never got beyond the third round at the All England Club.

Wimbledon chiefs branded the move by the two tours, which threatens to reduce the sport's most prestigious tennis tournament to the status of an exhibition event, as "disproportionate".

Defending champion Novak Djokovic would lose 2,000 points and his world number one spot as a result.

World number one Iga Swiatek, who wore a ribbon in the colours of Ukraine for her first round win on Monday, said she was happy to still play Wimbledon, with or without points.

"I'm okay with playing without points. It's Wimbledon. It's one of the most important tournaments in the season," said Swiatek.

"But it would be nice if the people who are making decisions were making decisions that are going to stop Russia's aggression."

- 'People say lot of things' -

The Wimbledon ban will rule out the likes of US Open champion and second-ranked Daniil Medvedev as well as former world number one and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Belarusian Azarenka, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2011 and 2012, sits on the WTA's powerful player council. 

However, she refused to dive into the player ban or ranking points issue which threatens to overshadow the build-up to Wimbledon which starts on June 27.

"I think as many players there is going to be in the draw, as many opinions there will be," said the 32-year-old when asked if players will boycott the tournament.

"From my experience on the tour, people say a lot of things, they do different. So I'm not going to take anybody's word for it, and we will see what happens."

Rafael Nadal, the champion at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, said he wished for a speedy conclusion to the impasse.

"I respect and understand the Wimbledon position; I understand and respect too that the ATP is protecting their members," said the 21-time Grand Slam title winner.

"Hopefully ATP and Wimbledon can be together and sit together and negotiate a better future for both sides. The ATP board made a decision. We need to accept that decision."

On Sunday, John Isner admitted he is "not that stoked" about playing Wimbledon.

Isner won the longest match in tennis history -- an 11-hour five-minute marathon -- at Wimbledon in 2010.

"I'm not that stoked about Wimbledon. I might just show up on Saturday and maybe I will play Monday and see what happens because our currency on tour is points," said the American.

© Agence France-Presse