Osaka withdraws from French Open, reveals ’bouts of depression’
World number two Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open after the controversy over her refusal to speak to the media at the tournament.
In a tweet announcing the move, Japan’s Osaka also said she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018.
The 23-year-old said last week she would not do news conferences at Roland Garros to protect her mental health.
“I never wanted to be a distraction,” the four-time major winner said.
On Sunday, Osaka won her opening match against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig in straight sets and was fined $£10,570 for not doing post-match media.
Later that day, a joint statement from Grand Slam organisers said Osaka could face expulsion from the tournament if she continued to avoid them.
That led to the player announcing her withdrawal on Monday, saying she was going to “take some time away from the court now”.
“When the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she added.
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton said the withdrawal of the second seed was “unfortunate”.
“We are sorry and sad for Naomi,” Moretton added. “We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year.
“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do.”
‘A situation I never imagined’ – Osaka’s statement in full
“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 wellbeing 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 my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.
“The truth is I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.
“Anyone that knows me knows I am introverted and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.
“Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I want to apologise to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.
“I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.
“So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious, so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.
“I wrote privately to the tournament apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense.
“I’m going to take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
‘You shouldn’t have to make a decision like this’ – sport stars support Osaka
Coco Gauff, American world number 25: “Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability.”
Martina Navratilova, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion: “I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and 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!”
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