The tennis tournament at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics received another blow when 23-time Major champion Serena Williams withdrew from the event.
The great American has not had a particularly impressive season, losing early at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, but she remains the biggest star in the women’s game by a distance and would surely have been amongst the favourites to win the gold medal in the Japanese capital.
Williams, who has won four gold medals in Olympic competition, including in singles in London in 2012, had previously expressed a reluctance to travel to Tokyo as she would not be able to take her daughter with her.
However, the American did not explain the rationale behind her decision or whether it related to restrictions on the size of travelling parties.
Instead, she stated that she did not currently intend to address the causes for her withdrawal, but that she might elaborate on the reasons behind her decision at a later date.
Other big names to pull out of the Olympics include Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem in the men’s game. Both the Spaniard and the Austrian will also miss Wimbledon through injury.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who have never won a gold medal in singles, are still yet to confirm whether or not they will play in Japan.
However, Federer has significant commercial commitments in Japan thanks to his endorsement of Uniqlo which may make his withdrawal unlikely.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has been open about his desire to complete a ‘Golden Calendar Slam’, a feat only Steffi Graf has accomplished previously.
Regardless, in the absence of Williams, the women’s singles draw will be short some star wattage.
The tournament organisers will no doubt be hoping that they do not lose any more stars before the tournament begins in the last week of July at the Ariake Tennis Park.
There is set to be Japanese representation, however, with both 2016 bronze medallist Kei Nishikori and world #2 Naomi Osaka currently set to compete on home turf.
Two-time defending champion Andy Murray is also set to take part, with the Briton currently entered in the singles and doubles.