“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal,” tennis pro says
Naomi Osaka has announced she’s withdrawing from the French Open, less than a week after she made waves by saying she would not speak to press during the tournament.
The tennis pro announced her withdrawal in a lengthy note posted to social media on Monday, in which she reiterated her struggles with mental health but admitted her message “could have been clearer.”
“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka’s message began. “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.”
Osaka — who is the No. 2 ranked women’s player in the world — continued by saying she 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,” she continued. “Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize 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.”
Osaka said her anxiety was recently amplified before the French Open, prompting her announcement last week that she would be skipping press at the competition (and accepting any fines that came with that decision).
“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,” she explained. “I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense.”
Osaka concluded her note by saying, “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.”
Over the weekend, Osaka was fined $15,000 for refusing to participate in media events at the French Open. The fine was announced in a joint statement on Sunday by the heads of the organizations that run the Grand Slam tournaments: the U.S. Tennis Association, the French Tennis Federation, the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Tennis Australia.
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