Following her announcement that she would be opting out of taking part in press interviews during the French Open, four-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the competition entirely.
The tennis champ was fined USD $15,000 for refusing to participate in the media interviews at Roland Garros, despite wanting to prioritise her mental health as her reason for not taking part.
“I’ve often felt people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” Osaka explained on Twitter.
“If the organisations think that they can just keep saying, ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centrepiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh.”
The athlete took to Twitter again in the wake of the news of her withdrawal, writing, “This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.
“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”
Osaka explained in her Tweet that she has been suffering from depression since 2018 and has been struggling to cope with it but has never wanted to “trivialise mental health or use the term lightly”.
“Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety,” she wrote.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Prior to opening up about her battle with depression, Osaka had been facing criticism for blaming the media for showing a lack of respect for players’ mental health, with many suggesting that she was simply making an excuse to not have to face questions about her game.
However, since she released her lengthy Twitter statement, the former world number one player has been inundated with support from her fellow athletes and others in the sporting world.
Venus Williams showed her support writing, “So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens wrote, “We’re behind you babygirl, take the time you need!”, while Martina Navratilova, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time posted an empathetic Tweet that demonstrated she understood Osaka’s position.
“I am so sad about Naomi Osaka” she wrote. “I truly hope she will be OK. As athletes, we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi — we are all pulling for you.”
Meanwhile, Osaka’s boyfriend — rapper Cordae — showed that he was in full support of his partner commenting on her Instagram post,“No need to apologise to ANYBODY!”.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT), organisers of the tournament, called Osaka’s withdrawal “unfortunate”, with FFT President Gilles Moretton saying in a statement: “We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka.
“The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year.”