Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been making headlines for more than just her on-the-court performance. On May 26, 2021, the four-time Major winner took to Twitter to announce that she would not be speaking to the press at the French Open, citing mental health issues as her reasoning. “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,” she wrote. “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 who doubt me.” While fans (for the most part) applauded Osaka’s decision, the French Tennis Federation was less than impressed, especially when Osaka stayed true to her word and refused to talk to the media following her win on May 30, per CNN.
In fact, the FFT was criticized for serving up some shade of their own! A since-deleted post featuring photos of fellow players Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka, and Coco Gauff speaking with media — alongside the caption, “They understood the assignment” — sparked immediate backlash among fans. Even tennis legend Rennae Stubbs tweeted in response that “this is some serious shade from Roland Garros.”
Things further snowballed when Osaka delivered another bombshell announcement on May 31, this time sharing her decision to withdraw from the French Open. But what’s prompting her choice to do so?
Naomi Osaka dropped out of the tournament to prioritize her mental health
Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open came just after tennis officials fined her $15,000 for her refusal to engage in media interviews during the tournament. Osaka was candid about how she’d opted out of press duties in order to prioritize her mental health — and at the end of the day, her mental health was still suffering. In a statement, the athlete revealed that she’d “suffered long bouts of depression” ever since she was thrust into the spotlight following a controversial win over Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open.
“I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly,” she explained, adding that ” anyone [who] has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.” While Osaka acknowledged that her “message could have been clearer,” she ultimately concluded that “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.”
She seems eager to put the drama behind her, as do members of the French Tennis Federation. “We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka,” FFT President Gilles Moretton wrote in a statement on May 31, calling the outcome “unfortunate.” He added, “We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year.”
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