Naomi Osaka, fresh off her win at the United States Open tennis tournament last week, announced Thursday night that she would not compete in the French Open this month because of an injured hamstring.
“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have enough time to prepare for the clay — these 2 tournaments came too close to each other for me this time,” Ms. Osaka, 22, wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “I wish the organizers and players all the best.”
Osaka, who rose to No. 3 in the rankings this week, injured her left hamstring during the Western & Southern Open, the tournament in New York that preceded the U.S. Open. She withdrew from the final but was able to manage the injury during the Open by skipping hitting sessions on her days off between matches. She played each of her seven rounds with the left hamstring tightly taped.
After winning the title on Saturday, she expressed uncertainty about being able to play in the French Open, the final Grand Slam of 2020, which is scheduled to begin in Paris on Sept. 27.
“I haven’t gotten a full rest,” she said on Saturday. “I guess I’ll see what happens or how it feels when I get a rest.”
The problem is that there is little time this year to rest between major tournaments. The French Open was moved from its usual dates in May and June because of high rates of coronavirus infection in France. The shift left only 13 days between the end of the U.S. Open and the start of the French Open, which gave those who advanced to the later rounds in New York little time to recover.
Some have plunged back into competition immediately. Victoria Azarenka, who lost to Osaka in the U.S. Open final, is already in Rome, where she has won two rounds at the Italian Open and defeated Sofia Kenin, the reigning Australian Open champion, by 6-0, 6-0 on Thursday.
The transition from hard courts to clay can be a challenge for some players, requiring different footwork and tactics. Osaka’s best results have come on hard courts, including her three Grand Slam singles titles: at the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020 and at the 2019 Australian Open. She has yet to advance past the third round at the French Open in singles in four appearances and has a middling 18-14 singles record on clay.
With Osaka’s withdrawal, two of the top three players in the world are out of the French Open. No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, an Australian, already has withdrawn because of concerns about traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. Bianca Andreescu, ranked No. 7, is unlikely to play because of a foot injury.
The French Open will also be missing more spectators than expected. On Thursday, tournament organizers announced that they were scaling back initial plans to host 11,500 fans per day because of new police restrictions linked to changes in coronavirus infection rates in the Paris region. Now, only 5,000 fans will be permitted each day and only on the main Philippe Chatrier court, which has a normal capacity of over 15,000.
During the U.S. Open, Osaka focused attention on systemic racism, wearing seven black face masks with white letters spelling the names of Black people who had been killed by the police or by civilians.
“The point is to make people start talking,” Osaka said at the awards ceremony, which, like the tournament itself, was conducted without fans in the stadium because of the coronavirus.
“The quarantine definitely gave me a chance to think about a lot of things, what I want to accomplish, what I want people to remember me by,” Osaka said. “I think it definitely helped me out.”
Osaka won her first Grand Slam title in 2018 at the U.S. Open but accepted the top award amid jeers from the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. In that final, she had defeated Serena Williams in a straight-sets match during which Williams clashed with a chair umpire who called three code-of-conduct violations against Williams.
The crowd, unclear on the rules and upset at the treatment of Williams, booed during the awards ceremony.
Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.