French Open 2021: Naomi Osaka withdraws due to mental health issues
Naomi Osaka of Japan is one of the top tennis players in the modern-day, currently ranked second in the WTA singles rankings. She is a four-time Grand Slam champion. Despite being in her bid to win her first French Open title, she has withdrawn following Round 1.
Japanese female tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the French Open 2021 after qualifying for Round 2. The decision came on Monday night following her bitter fallout with the organisers over her media boycott issue.
Osaka had won her opening-round game Patricia Maria Țig of Romania in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) on Monday. However, she did not speak to the media in her mandatory post-match press conference.
It led to her being fined $15,000, while the organisers also warned over being disqualified. Nevertheless, later, on Monday night, Osaka took to her social media to announce her decision to pull out, citing mental health issues.
"Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. 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 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 hard time coping with that," she wrote in her statement.
"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 added.
"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 I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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," she continued.
"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 are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys, I'll see you when I see you," she concluded.
Although Osaka had received mixed reactions over her decision to boycott the media, her decision to pull out has led to some positive responses, even from the organisers and her home country of Japan. Osaka was scheduled to take on another Romanian, Ana Bogdan, on Wednesday.
"We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery. We look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year," said Gilles Moretton, French Tennis Federation president, in a statement, reports AFP.
"As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes' well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players' experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do," he added.
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