Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Jun 2021, 7:09AM
(Photo / AP)
(Photo / AP)

Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Jun 2021, 7:09AM

Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter today that "the best thing for the tournament" would be if she withdrew from the French Open, a dramatic turn of events for the four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player.

She had declared she would not speak to the media during Roland Garros and was fined $15,000 after she skipped the postmatch news conference following her first-round victory Monday.

"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 wrote today.

She also said that she has "suffered long bouts of depression" since the 2018 U.S. Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in a final filled with controversy.

Osaka was set to play Romania's Ana Bogdan in the second round tomorrow.

"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 trivialise 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 tough time coping with that," she said.

"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," she went on.

"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologise 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.

"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. I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I'm gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss wats we can make things better for players, press and fans."

In addition to Sunday's fine during Day 1 of the French Open, she drew a surprising warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.

Osaka returned to Roland Garros after sitting out the tournament last year and turned in a mistake-filled 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1.

She had said last week on social media she would not speak to the media and kept that promise.

Hours later, Osaka turned to her preferred method of communication these days, tweeting: "anger is a lack of understanding. change makes people uncomfortable."

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine, of course, is not a big deal to Osaka, the world's highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.

Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka's right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.