Former No. 1 female tennis star Naomi Osaka is dropping like a stone in the WTA rankings, falling from 7th to 12th this morning. Today’s ranking marks the first time that Osaka has dropped out of the top 10 in the last three years, dating back to August 2018.
The 23-year-old has essentially quit playing tennis right in the midst of her athletic prime, referring back to her mental health any time the media tries to question the unprecedented decision.
A four-time Grand Slam champion, Osaka pulled out of the French Open in May, sat out Wimbeldon in July, lost quickly in the Tokyo Olympics (Osaka is of Haitian and Japanese descent), and then lost in the third round of the U.S. Open to unseeded Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez. After the U.S. Open, Osaka said she planned on taking a break from tennis “for a while.”
Curiously, Osaka has found time to pose for magazine covers and do selective press events that interest her, but she still often blames “the media” for contributing to her mental health issues. All told, the situation feels peculiar and baffling at times, given that so few elite athletes buck their incredible opportunities to earn fame and fortune. Worse, too, is the fact that she tends to blame others for her problems, instead of understanding the unique responsibilities that come with professional athletics.
If her approach to the job she’s chosen doesn’t change, her drop out of the top 10 may quickly become a drop out of the sport, and public consciousness, altogether. Then again, maybe that’s what she wants.