Wimbledon 2021: why are Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka not playing at tennis championship?

Former Wimbledon champions Andy Murray and Venus Williams have been handed wildcards to this year's tournament

Wimbledon 2021 will go ahead this year without two of the biggest names in tennis.

World No.3 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the men's tournament while Naomi Osaka, ranked second in the world, has opted not to play in this year's women's championships.

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It comes as a blow to Wimbledon just days after the government gave tournament organisers a boost by allowing increased attendances than currently permitted under Covid rules.

Wimbledon takes a hit: World No.3 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the men's tournament while Naomi Osaka, ranked second in the world, has opted not to play in this year's women's championships. (Pic: Getty)
Wimbledon takes a hit: World No.3 Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the men's tournament while Naomi Osaka, ranked second in the world, has opted not to play in this year's women's championships. (Pic: Getty)

SW19 has been given the green light to stage the men's and women's finals in front of full capacity crowds, with the rest of the tournament being played in front of 50% capacity crowds.

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Here's why Nadal and Osaka have pulled out of Wimbledon 2021.

Why has Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon?

Wimbledon in numbers. Graphic: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia

Two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal will miss this year's championships.

The Spaniard, who won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, lost at the semi-final stage of the French Open to eventual winner Novak Djokovic on 11 June.

The short turnaround between the two tournaments was a key factor in Nadal's decision not to compete at Wimbledon 2021 and outlined his decision on Twitter.

"It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss it with my team I understand that it is the right decision," he said.

"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.

"The fact that there has only been 2 weeks between RG and Wimbledon, didn’t make it easier on my body to recuperate after the always demanding clay court season. They have been two months of great effort and the decision I take is focused on looking at the mid and long term."

Nadal will also skip the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Why has Osaka pulled out of Wimbledon?

Osaka's decision to withdraw from Wimbledon may have been more predictable than Nadal's as the Japan ace has spoken out about experiencing anxiety on tour recently.

The 23-year-old withdrew from the French Open in May to "protect her mental health".

Organisers fined her £10,000 for not fulfilling her media duties a day before she withdrew from the competition, which finished two weeks before Wimbledon is due to start.

Osaka, who has twice reached the third round of Wimbledon, has decided to spend the time with friends and family before starting preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

A statement from Osaka's team reads: "Naomi won’t be playing Wimbledon this year. She is taking some personal time with friends and family. She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans."

When does Wimbledon 2021 start?

In 2021, Wimbledon will take place over two weeks at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club between 28 June and 11 July.

The Championships at Wimbledon is one of four Grand Slam tournaments in the tennis calendar, alongside the Australian Open, French Open and US Open.

It traditionally takes place after the French Open, also known as Roland Garros, and before the US Open - and is the only Grand Slam to be played on grass courts.

Former Wimbledon champions Andy Murray and Venus Williams were handed wildcard entries to this year's championship.