It was a highly touted exhibition match slated to take place on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, between Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu in Melbourne. However, Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the exhibition and will be replaced by Donna Vekic.
No official reason was given for Osaka's decision. She played two matches last week at Brisbane International, her first matches since August 2022. Perhaps her body was a little sore after those matches, or she just wanted extra time to prepare for the Australian Open.
Osaka is already in Melbourne and has been seen practicing with Amanda Anisimova. Osaka has a fresh outlook on the game after her long layoff, and her demeanor on the court in Brisbane showed it. Osaka was more interactive with the fans, especially the children. She also smiled more and laughed off her on-court errors. However, the four-time Grand Slam champion has made it clear that she wants to win more Grand Slams.
Emma Raducanu vs. Naomi Osaka match is no more
Donna Vekic has never played Raducanu so this will be an interesting challenge for both players. Vekic represented Croatia at the 2024 United Cup. She reached the quarterfinals in the 2023 Australian Open, and the 27-year-old is ranked 25th in the world. Vekic was going to take Osaka place, but then Raducanu decided she needed more rest and the Raducanu and Vekic match was called off as well.
There are several exhibitions still taking place this week. Carlos Alcaraz is scheduled to face Alex de Minaur on January 10. Novak Djokovic is slated to play Stefanos Tsitsipas on January 11, and Aryna Sabalenka will play Maria Sakkari on the same day.
The Australian Open draw is also expected to be announced on January 11 so it is an exciting week of events leading up to the first ball on January 14.