Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open

In her statement, she cited depression as a factor

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan serves the ball during the women's singles first round match against Patricia Maria Tig of Romania at the French Open.
Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua via Getty Images

On Wednesday, Naomi Osaka — currently ranked #2 in the world — stated that she would not take part in press conferences during the French Open. This, in turn, led to her being fined $15,000 by the tournament on Sunday for skipping one such press conference. At the time, the tournament released a statement warning Osaka that “repeat violations attract tougher sanctions,” including more fines and being suspended from the French Open and future Grand Slam events.

Osaka’s response to that came today, when she announced her withdrawal from the tournament.

“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,” Osaka said in a statement posted to social media.

The entire statement is well worth reading. In it, Osaka refers to having “suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018.”

“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,” Osaka wrote. “I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.”

In comments posted to Reddit yesterday and subsequently deleted, Osaka’s sister Mari addressed Osaka’s comments, stating that her reluctance to talk to the media was a result of wanting to preserve her self-confidence. “Tennis players don’t get paid to do press conferences,” Mari wrote. “They only get paid when they win matches.” And while Mari subsequently expressed concern over how her comments had been received, it’s also hard to shake the sense that she’s absolutely right.

Tennis, like all sports, is one where psychology matters a great deal. The fact that tennis is frequently a one-on-one competition makes the importance of its players’ mental health that much more important. There have been numerous accounts recently of the psychological toll that tennis takes on the professionals who play it. Hopefully, Osaka’s withdrawal from this tournament will spark a larger discussion about the presence of depression in the sport — and what can be done to address it.

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