Naomi Osaka announced Monday, May 31, that she would no longer be participating in this year’s French Open. The withdrawal comes after the multiple-time Grand Slam winner was fined $15,000 last week for not participating in any news conferences for mental health reasons. “I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” she shared.
With pushback from critics like Piers Morgan and others in the pop culture and sports space, Osaka upped the ante with her withdrawal, adding that she is going to “take some time away from the court.” The 23-year-old celebrated athlete recently released her own skincare line, Kinló, which seems like a great project to use to focus on herself and helping others. Meanwhile, organizers behind the French Open have said that Naomi Osaka could face expulsion from future Grand Slams if she continues to not speak to the media.
“Everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” the four-time major winner wrote in her Twitter-posted statement,” revealing that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018. With any fines incurred going toward a mental health charity, it appears that Osaka is determined to find the silver lining in this really wild situation.
“I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you [the media] the best answers I can,” her tweeted statement reads. “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.”
Following her decision to opt out of media duties last week, the French Open was criticized for posting a tweet— which it has since deleted—with photos of Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff engaging in media duties with the caption: “They understood the assignment.”
The sports and pop culture world quickly had Naomi Osaka’s back and offered their support via social media:
Fellow Grand Slam champion and official G.O.A.T. contender, Serena Williams discussed anxiety in relation to Naomi Osaka’s announcement after her first-round victory against Irina-Camelia Begu. “I feel for Naomi,” Williams shared hours after scrutiny over Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal began. “Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.”
Williams continued: “You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.” The ultimate competitor and 24-time Grand Slam singles winner offered a bit of advice as well, sharing that it is important to reach out for support when in need of help. “You really have to step forward and make an effort, just as in anything, and say, ‘I need help with A, B, C and D,’ and talk to someone,” she said. “I think that is so important to have a sounding board, whether it is someone at the WTA, or someone in your life, or maybe it’s someone you talk to on a weekly basis.”
“I’ve been in that position too,” Williams added, “and I’ve definitely had opportunities to talk to people and just get things off my chest that I can’t necessarily talk about to anyone in my family or anyone I know.”
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