Naomi Osaka has dropped out of the top 10 in the official WTA rankings, falling from number 7 to number 12. Osaka has struggled for results ever since winning her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year, which is pushing her further and further down the rankings ladder.
The 23-year-old had made her top 10 debut after winning her first Major at the 2018 US Open, and had been a mainstay there until last week. Osaka had even ascended to the top of the rankings in the aftermath of her triumph at the 2019 Australian Open, becoming the first Asian player of either sex to do so.
The Japanese held the top spot for a total of 25 weeks back then, and last year she again came close to taking over the throne. But Osaka hasn't been able to replicate her Slam success at tour level events since the start of the pandemic, and her third-round loss at the US Open last month cost her a lot of ranking points.
There's a possibility of the four-time Slam champion returning to the top 10 soon even if she doesn't play over the next month. Points from Roland Garros 2020 are slated to drop next week, and Osaka didn't play the tournament last year so she has nothing to lose.
The 23-year-old could, therefore, possibly leapfrog some of her peers by the end of this month. But that is assuming they don't do well at the upcoming BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where there are 1000 points up for grabs.
Naomi Osaka hasn't played much this year, and the cancelation of the Asian swing hurt her more than it did others. Osaka had won both the big events (Osaka and Beijing) during the fall swing in Asia two years ago, and those points have only just dropped off.
The Japanese has also been dealing with some off-court problems this year. She withdrew from the French Open citing mental health reasons, after which she skipped Wimbledon too. Osaka returned to action at the Tokyo Olympics and played two tournaments after that - the Cincinnati Open and the US Open, losing in the third round of all three events.
Following her loss at the US Open, Osaka announced that she'd be taking a break from tennis as winning didn't make her happy anymore.
Naomi Osaka is feeling the "itch" to play again
In a recent appearance on the show "The Shop: Uninterrupted," Naomi Osaka said she'll probably resume playing soon since she feels the "itch" to compete again.
"For sure I love the sport," Osaka said. "I know I'm gonna play again, probably soon because I kind of have that itch again. But it wouldn’t really matter to me if I won or lost. I'd just have the joy of being back on the court. Just to, like, you know, that I’m doing it for myself."
But she subsequently withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the last 1000 event on the WTA calendar. Osaka is not on the entry list for any other tournament this year, and she is not guaranteed to qualify for the WTA Finals either.
All the signs suggest that the earliest we'll see Naomi Osaka on court again is the start of 2022. She'll be under immediate pressure in Melbourne though, since she won the Australian Open in 2021 and would have to defend 2,000 points at the event.