Naomi Osaka entered the French Open tournament as one of the favorites to win it all despite heavy competition from the likes of Serena Williams and current No. 1 player Ashleigh Barty. Citing mental health concerns, Osaka has withdrawn from the tournament after she was faced with expulsion from the tournament and hit with a $15,000 fine.
Osaka, 23, won her first-round match in the tournament against Patricia Maria Țig. Osaka was slated to take on Ana Bogdan in the second round but after skipping the mandatory postgame press conferences, all four major tournament bodies issued a statement saying that she could face harsher penalties or be booted from the WTA tour for failing to meet the obligations.
Via a lengthy statement posted to social media, Osaka explained that she’s been battling depression and anxiety for years and wants the focus to be on the game and not cause any distractions.
From Naomi 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 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 trivialize 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 wanna 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.
Both Serena and Venus Williams showed their support for Osaka, and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors also chimed in with supporting words via social media.
“So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon,” Venus Williams wrote in a reply to the Instagram post featuring the statement. Osaka’s boyfriend Cordae added, “No need to apologize to ANYBODY !”
“You shouldnt ever have to make a decison like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be dont protect their own. major respect @naomiosaka,” Curry wrote in a retweet and quote tweet caption of Osaka’s statement posted on Twitter.
Serena Williams said of Osaka, “I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug, because I know what it’s like. Everyone is different, and everyone handles things differently.”
Get well, Naomi Osaka. Tennis can wait.