Naomi Osaka is putting her mental health first.
On Monday, the tennis champion announced her decision to withdraw from the 2021 French Open. In a statement shared on both Instagram and Twitter, Osaka wrote:
“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 trivialize 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.”
The announcement comes just days after Osaka announced she would not be doing any press during the French Open.
“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” Osaka wrote, also comparing the way the media treats athletes at press conferences after losses to “kicking a person while they’re down.”
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On Sunday, the organization behind the French Open fined Osaka $15,000 for not appearing at a press conference, CBS News reported.
“Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct,” the four Grand Slam tournaments said in a joint statement.
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On Monday, Yahoo! Sports reported that Serena Williams had weighed in on Osaka’s decision and expressed support for the young athlete, saying.
“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions,” Williams said. “We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thick. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best she can.”
This story first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US