Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka announced on Monday that she is withdrawing from French Open.
In her statement, the 23-year-old said she had suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and had a really hard time coping, which was part of the reason she decided to skip media duties at Roland Garros. She had announced last week that she will not be attending press conferences at the ongoing Grand Slam because they affected her mental health.
“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,” the world No 2 wrote on Twitter.
The Japanese star had already been fined $15,000 for not honouring media commitments following her opening round win at Roland Garros on Sunday.
All four Grand Slams – the French, Australian and US Opens as well as Wimbledon – issued a joint statement on Sunday, warning of a default or potential suspension from future Majors if she does not relent from her boycott of the press.
Here’s the statement published by Osaka:
Hey everyone, 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. More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.
The truth is that 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’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.
Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially 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 I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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 apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense.
I’m gonna 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. Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I’ll see you when I see you.
Osaka, the sport’s highest-earning female athlete, was sanctioned for refusing to hold a press conference after her opening 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over Romanian world number 63 Patricia Maria Tig.
After her match on Sunday, Osaka did a cursory on-court TV interview.
“For me, playing on clay is a work in progress,” said the reigning US and Australian Open champion on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Hopefully the more I play, the better I will become.”
And that was that from a player who has now strung together 15 successive Grand Slam match wins.
Later on Sunday she published a tweet, saying: “anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable.”
With AFP inputs