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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open, Citing Mental Health

By Paula Gallagher··  3 min read
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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open, Citing Mental Health

Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdraws from the French Open, citing her struggle with depression.

The 23-year-old tennis player Naomi Osaka announced just days leading up to the French Open (also called Roland Garros) that she wouldn’t be engaging in any press, even though it was in her contract. She wrote on Twitter, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We’re often sat there...and asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.” [sic]

The four-time major champion did refuse to hold a press conference following her first-round match on Saturday, May 30, and she was consequently fined $15,000 according to the tournament’s Code of Conduct.

In a statement on their website, Roland Garros said they had reached out to Osaka twice after her May 26 announcement to ask her to “reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.” However, she didn’t respond.

Roland Garros further stated, “The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams. We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being. In order to continue to improve, however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences.” 

Roland Garros also defended press conferences, saying they "allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story," as well as how the media contributes "to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players."

Yesterday, Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open, “so everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.” She wrote on Twitter, “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 also described her social anxiety and how she was already feeling “vulnerable and anxious” in Paris, and she hoped to “exercise self-care” by not speaking to the press.

Following her withdrawal, Osaka’s sponsors have issued public statements of support. Nike, who began sponsoring Naomi in 2019, stated, “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.”

Other brands that sponsor Osaka or for whom she’s an ambassador like MasterCard, watchmaker TAG Heuer, and restaurant chain Sweetgreen have also issued statements in support of Osaka.

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