Former medallists Azarenka, Kerber opt out of Tokyo Olympics

Victoria Azarenka, former mixed doubles gold medallist, and Angelique Kerber, the silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, have opted out of the Tokyo Olympics. They were joined by Vasek Pospisil on the men’s side.

Victoria Azarenka at London Olympics in 2012

The tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on July 24, was hit by more withdrawals on Thursday, as Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Vasek Pospisil each opted out.

Kerber, a silver medallist in singles at the Rio Games in 2016 and Azarenka, a gold medallist in mixed and a bronze medallist in singles at the 2012 London Games, bring the total of top-25 players opting out of the women’s singles event to six. Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin and Serena Williams have previously announced their withdrawals.

On the men’s side ten top-25 players have already opted out of the Olympics, including top-10 stars Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer and Denis Shapovalov.

Pospisil added himself to the list late Thursday.

Kerber: “My body needs rest”

Fatigue is the reason that Kerber, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last week, has pulled out.

“The thought of participating at the Olympics has been a constant motivation for me over the past months to push further and keep believing in my goals,” world No 22 Kerber posted on Instagram. “Representing Germany in London 2012 and Rio 2016 as part of the German team has always been one of my favorite memories of my career so far.

“This makes it even more disappointing for me to accept the fact that my body needs rest after the intense few weeks that lie behind me and that I have to recover first before returning to competition later this summer! Thank you for your support, as this has been a very difficult decision for me.”

Azarenka cites challenges of the pandemic

Azarenka, currently 14 in the WTA rankings, says that the pandemic and its challenges shaped her difficult decision.

“I would like to inform everyone that I have made a difficult decision to not play in the Tokyo Olympics,” Azarenka wrote. “I have many amazing memories winning the gold while competing and representing Belarus in previous Games, but with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know in my heart that this is the right decision for myself and team. I look forward to returning to the 2024 Olympics in Paris to represent Belarus.”

Pospisil: Aggravated right shoulder

Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, ranked 61, called his decision to forego Tokyo one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.

“To all my fans back home, unfortunately I have decided not to take part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year,” Pospisil said on Twitter. “Several factors have played into this difficult decision which include an aggravated right shoulder that will need rest to prevent further injury. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make; playing for your country is the biggest honour in sport and going to the Olympics is every young child’s dream, as it was mine. I had to be honest with myself that I am both physically and mentally not able to make the trip.”

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