Naomi Osaka Withdraws From the French Open With a Powerful Statement
Over the past few days, the French Open has been overshadowed by a heated debate around the obligations of its players to engage with the media. On Wednesday, following Naomi Osaka’s victory over the Romanian player Patricia Maria Tig, the Japanese-American champion and current world number two completed her courtside post-match interview, but chose not to attend the post-match press conference. This lead to a $15,000 fine, and a forceful rebuke from the league of Grand Slam tournaments that make up the most esteemed—and ultimately highest-paying—bodies within the world of tennis.
While many questioned the reasoning behind this decision at the time, today Osaka announced her withdrawal from this year’s French Open altogether. “I think 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,” Osaka wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
The decision, as Osaka explained in her post, was a measure to look after her mental health. “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,” Osaka wrote. “Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I want to apologize 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.”
Osaka’s statement attracted praise from many of her peers and spotlighted a hypocrisy that exists within many corners of the sporting world. While players with physical injuries are always allocated the necessary time to recover, the stigma surrounding mental health means that many stay silent about their suffering. For an athlete of Osaka’s stature to speak up about the impact of mental health on conducting a career as a professional athlete—and delivered with a maturity and insight far beyond her years—is more powerful than it might initially seem.
“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,” Osaka concluded. And if Osaka’s prior work as an activist, from honoring Black victims of police brutality to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and equal pay for women in sport is anything to go by, you can be sure she’ll be back next season with a solution—and shooting straight back to the top of the leaderboard again.
Published at Mon, 31 May 2021 20:09:43 +0000
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