Ahead of the Australian Open on January 17, defending tournament champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from a WTA tournament in Melbourne due to an abdominal injury. According to a report by the Associated Press, Osaka withdrew despite a place in the semifinal on Saturday, allowing opponent Veronika Kudermetova to advance to the final round on a walkover.
"Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took," read a Twitter post by Osaka. "Thank you for all the love this past week I'll try to rest up and I'll see you soon!"
This marks the second year in a row that Osaka has withdrawn from a preliminary tournament in the leadup to the Australian Open. Last year, Osaka pulled out of the Gippsland Trophy semifinal last season. In Melbourne, Osaka had advanced to the semifinal by beating Andrea Petkovic 6-1 7-5 in Friday's quarterfinal.
Once the No. 1 player in the world, the Melbourne tournament had marked Osaka's return to tennis after a much-publicized sabbatical from. Last year, Osaka refused to hold press conferences or speak to media pointing to mental health and anxiety concerns, and then withdrew from both the French Open and skipped Wimbledon. At the U.S. Open in September, Osaka announced she would take a break from tennis.
With Osaka out of the picture, Kudermetova will square off against Simona Halep in Sunday's final. Halep advanced to the final in Melbourne by virtue of a Saturday victory over Zheng Qinwen, who she beat 6-3 6-2.