Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday, one day after she was threatened with potential expulsion from the tournament if she continued to boycott post-match press conferences.
Osaka, 23, announced last week that she would not speak to the media at the French Open, contending media sessions can negatively impact an athlete’s mental health and confidence. The four-time Grand Slam winner and world’s second-ranked player was fined $15,000 after her first-round victory over Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 (4) for her failure to take part in the media session.
Osaka, 23, took to Twitter on Monday to announce her decision to bow out of the tournament, as well as clarify her stance on mental health.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka, a native of Japan, wrote. “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. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered 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 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 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.
“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 I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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.”
— NaomiOsaka????? (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Osaka won the U.S. Open (2018, 2020) and the Australian Open (2019, 2021). She has yet to advance past the third round at Roland Garros or Wimbledon.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)