Naomi Osaka, the world’s No. 2-ranked female tennis player, has withdrawn from the French Open after her decision to skip press conferences to protect her mental health ended up causing more drama than it’s worth.
In doing so, Osaka also revealed that she had been battling with depression and social anxiety for a few years now, which is what made her step back from media obligations in the first place.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Aussie time.
“I think 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.”
Osaka also called out everyone who had been criticising her decision to step back from press obligations too protect her own mental health.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
“More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly,” she said.
“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 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.”
She went on to say that during the durrent tournament in Paris, she was feeling “vulnerable and anxious” and thus decided to skip press conferences in the name of self-care.
“I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that,” she added.
The French Tennis Federation said it is “sorry and sad” for Osaka.
“The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year,” FFT President Gilles Moretton said in a statement.
This is the last we’ll be hearing from Osaka for the time being, if all goes as planned. And that’s the point.
“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 ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she said.
“Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys, I’ll see you when I see you.”
If you need mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.