Raducanu and Sabalenka opt out of the Olympics to prioritise health

Both players have expressed their desire to protect their physical health as key reasons for missing Paris 2024 this summer

Emma Raducanu, Nottingham Open, 2024 Emma Raducanu, Nottingham Open, 2024 Gepa / Panoramic

The women’s singles tennis event at Paris 2024 has taken a double hit in the past couple of days, as both Emma Raducanu and Aryna Sabalenka have announced they will skip the Olympics this summer in order to protect their physical health ahead of the rest of the season.

As the current world No 3 and reigning Australian Open champion, Sabalenka will be one of the biggest absences in Paris, where the tennis event will be played on the clay courts of Roland-Garros.

She reached the semi-finals of Roland-Garros in 2023, falling agonisingly short of the final, before a surprise quarter-final exit to Mirra Andreeva this year.

But with the US Open, where Sabalenka was runner-up last season, starting just three weeks after the end of the Olympics tennis event, the Belarusian has opted to prioritise the remainder of her regular schedule rather than chase Olympic glory for her country.

It is worth noting that athletes from Russia and Belarus who qualify for the Olympics can only compete as neutrals in Paris, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Although Sabalenka made no indication that this was a factor in her decision.

“I prefer to have a little rest to make sure physically and health-wise I’m ready for the hard courts,” she explained.

“Especially with all the struggles I’ve been struggling with the last months, I feel I have to take care of my health.

“It’s too much for the scheduling and I made the decision to take care of my health.”

Raducanu loses to compatriot Katie Boulter in the semi-finals of the Nottingham Open

Raducanu, meanwhile, did not qualify for the Olympics through her ranking, but instead rejected a wildcard offered to her by the International Tennis Federation by virtue of her being a former Grand Slam champion.

The former British No 1 cited similar reasons to Sabalenka for missing the Games, as she continues her comeback from the wrist and ankle surgeries she underwent last year.

“I’m very single minded and I do things my own way and in my own time whenever I want,” said Raducanu.

“So not in a diva way, just prioritising my body and my health because I know if I’m fit, I know if I’m giving my 100%, I know great things are happening and coming.

“I just don’t think there’s any need to put additional stress on my body or any risk, especially with my history.”

Raducanu opted to skip Roland-Garros this last month, with clay surfaces appearing to pose the greatest risk with regards to injury setbacks for the Briton.

With the US hard-court swing – a stretch of the season that Raducanu has always performed well in – coming hot on the heels of the Olympics, it would seem a rapid change of surfaces from grass back to the clay and then onto the hard is thought to be too much of a strain on the body.

Understandable reasoning. But with the Olympics only coming around every four years, and no guarantee of another chance to represent their countries in the future, the short-term risks both Raducanu and Sabalenka are seeking to avoid come with their own potential longer-term implications.

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