Melbourne | Osaka a likely AO no-show as Jabeur joins her agency, Evolve

Australian Open officials are ‘quietly resigned’ to two-time champion Naomi Osaka missing this year’s event, which starts in 10 days time, as the former World No 1 is still overseas, although her name remains on the entry list.

My immediate thought while interacting with her [Ons Jabeur] was, 'Wow, she's the nicest person I've ever met'. I was extremely shy so all I could ever do was mumble out a few words, but she always came up to me, cracked jokes and made me feel more comfortable. Even now when we play the same tournaments she still does the same. Naomi Osaka

Judging from the 25-year-old’s recent posts on her social media account, she appears to be in Los Angeles, after a holiday in Europe with her rapper boyfriend Corade.

Osaka’s hiatus from tennis in now approaching 4 months, having last played in Tokyo in September, where she withdrew from the tournament with abdominal pains, and AO officials reportedly are not expecting the Japanese to compete in the first major of the year.

She took a mental health break from the tour in 2021 after withdrawing from the French Open and spoke widely about her mental health struggles.

Her absence will leave the women’s field wide open, with reigning champion Ash Barty retired, along with 7-time champion Serena Williams.

The Australian Open draw takes place next Thursday.


Ons Jabeur sports a top, pants, earrings, and necklace by Prada in Vogue Arabia, January 2023 edition

Photo by Sam Rawadi/Vogue Arabia

Osaka maintains a number of off-court business interests, including a new management agency, named Evolve, which has signed up World No 2 Ons Jabeur as a client.

“New year, new beginnings,” tweeted Jabeur, who reached her first two major finals last year at Wimbledon and the US Open, and who is Vogue Arabia‘s January 2023 cover star.

Osaka, who launched Evolve in May last year alongside agent Stuart Duguid, shared a story of how she had first bonded with Jabeur at the 2015 WTA Finals Singapore, when both competed in the Rising Stars event.

“My immediate thought while interacting with her was, ‘Wow, she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,'” wrote Osaka on social media. “I was extremely shy so all I could ever do was mumble out a few words, but she always came up to me, cracked jokes and made me feel more comfortable. Even now when we play the same tournaments she still does the same.

“That type of kindness is something I’ll never forget and I think moments like that are what define your character. Over the years, watching her rise through the tour and become the star that she is has been incredibly joyful to watch and I can’t wait to see her create more history and ascend even higher.”

Jabeur has been a trailblazer since the early days of her career, becoming the first player from Tunisia, and the first Arab woman, to win a junior Grand Slam, to reach the Top 50, to win a WTA title and to make a major final.

The 28-year-old captured her first WTA 1000 title in Madrid last May, and at Monastir in October spearheaded the first ever Hologic WTA Tour event in Tunisia.


Ons Jabeur, who is a trailblazer for Tunisia, the Arab world and Africa, has signed up with Evolve

© Brenton Edwards/AFP via Getty Images

“Ons is an ideal Evolve client,” Duguid said. “As an Arab woman from Africa, she is a trailblazer and a truly captivating tennis player.

“Her influence extends beyond sports and into wider culture. Her impact on the Middle East and beyond is transformative.”

Since 4-time Grand Slam champion co-founded the agency Evolve, it already has attracted some prominent clients, including Osaka herself, and Nick Kyrgios amongst others.

Based in Los Angeles, Evolve is a sports management company claims to represent athletes who transcend their sports and influence culture.

Top, pants, earrings, necklace, Prada. Photo: Sam Rawadi. Vogue Arabia, January 2023


Stuart Duguid is the co-founder of Evolve with Naomi Osaka



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