Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Roland Garros the day after being fined for skipping media duties, the Japanese megastar announced on Twitter, while revealing significant problems with depression.
Osaka won her round one match against Patricia Tig on the opening day of the French Open but went through with her announced press boycott. It earned her a $US15,000 fine and the threat of default from the Grand Slam event.
Osaka on Tuesday (AEST) said that she would instead pull out of the event, citing mental health concerns; as she did when first announcing her controversial media stance.
“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.
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She said that she has “suffered long bouts of depression” since the 2018 US Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in an explosive final. Osaka ended the match in tears despite her first major victory.
She has since won three more Grand Slams and been a world No.1, yet said that she had done so amid serious anxiety issues. Osaka could have reclaimed the top ranking in Paris, had she made the final and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty lost before the semis.
Osaka said that she would instead be focusing on her mental health.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka said, referring to her press boycott announcement.
“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 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.”
Osaka did a brief on-court interview after her opening match at Roland Garros but declined her press conference. She elaborated on her relationship with the media in her Twitter announcement.
“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 speaking to the world’s media,” Osaka said.
“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 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 ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.
“Anyways, hope you all are doing well and staying safe. Love you guys, I’ll see you when I see you.”
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