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Break point: Tennis great Clijsters claims Venus & Serena Williams earned ‘a lot of sh*t’ for starting ‘trend’ that Osaka followed

Break point: Tennis great Clijsters claims Venus & Serena Williams earned ‘a lot of sh*t’ for starting ‘trend’ that Osaka followed
Tennis legend Kim Clijsters has claimed that pioneering sisters Venus and Serena Williams paved the way for Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Wimbledon and the Olympic Games and Naomi Osaka’s controversial exit from the French Open.

Men’s great Nadal sent shockwaves through the sport last week when he announced his withdrawal from this summer’s Wimbledon and the Games in Tokyo, while Osaka revealed she would be “taking some personal time with friends and family” instead of appearing in London.

Grand Slam winner Osaka, who hit the headlines when she boycotted press duties before leaving Roland-Garros for the good of her mental health, appeared to be backed by Clijsters, with the former Australian Open and US Open queen tracing their decisions back to the Williams sisters.

“Venus and Serena started it, I think,” said Clijsters, responding to a writer who called Osaka a trailblazer over her much-debated withdrawal and said she had sparked “a very healthy trend of listening to one’s body.”

“[They] got a lot of sh*t for it but it’s the reason why we are still able to enjoy their tennis.”

Venus Williams is still competing at the age of 41, recovering from a torrid time with injuries and illness between 2011 and 2013 before tumbling down the rankings in the last three years.

At 39, Serena Williams is still ranked eighth in the world and continues to pursue Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam trophies, which she remains one title short of.

The younger Williams said of Osaka: “The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. Like I said, I've been in those positions."

Venus enthusiastically supported the Japanese star who earned more than any female athlete in history last year, telling her on social media: "So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon.”

World number one Novak Djokovic’s crammed schedule this summer highlights the demands of the sport.

The Serb superstar will have just ten days to prepare for the Olympics if he makes the final at the All England Club, then have a month between the Games and the start of the US Open.

“I want to be at my best at Wimbledon but at the US Open and the Olympic Games as well,” he told Tennis Majors. “These are my priorities until the end of the year.

“The schedule is really tough: there are only 10 to 15 days between Wimbledon and the Olympics, which is not ideal, but it is not the first time that I am in that kind of situation. I am pleased with the way I am recovering; physically, mentally and emotionally.”

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