LONDON (AFP) – Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka, with 24 Grand Slam titles between them, both withdrew from Wimbledon on Thursday with the Spanish star also pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics in a bid “to prolong my career”.
Nadal’s snub of the Olympics was later followed by world number five Dominic Thiem also withdrawing from Tokyo.
Osaka, however, said she still intended to take part in her home Olympics.
The 35-year-old Nadal, who won Olympic gold and Wimbledon in 2008, triumphing again at the All England Club two years later, revealed his decision on Twitter.
“I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he tweeted.
“It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss(ing) it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.”
World number one Novak Djokovic last week ended Nadal’s four-year reign as French Open champion and went on to seal his 19th Grand Slam.
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” said Nadal.
The former world number one said the shorter break between the French Open and Wimbledon this year — Roland Garros was pushed back by a week — had influenced his decision.
Nadal is a double Olympic champion, having won gold in singles in Beijing in 2008 and in doubles with Marc Lopez in Rio in 2016, when he also carried Spain’s flag in the opening ceremony.
– ‘Taking personal time –
Japanese star Osaka also pulled the plug on the All England Club, just two weeks after withdrawing from the French Open citing her struggle with depression and anxiety.
Osaka has been in the spotlight since withdrawing from the French Open.
She was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification from Roland Garros after she refused to honour mandatory media commitments.
His absence from Wimbledon means Djokovic, 34, will be an even stronger favorite to win the tournament for the sixth time.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, 39, is struggling to find his form after returning from knee surgery.
He lost in the second round of the ATP grass court tournament in Halle on Wednesday after pulling out ahead of the fourth round of the French Open.
If Djokovic wins at the All England Club he would join Nadal and Federer on 20 Grand Slam titles and would require just the US Open, which starts in late August, to complete the calendar Grand Slam.