Sport rallies round Naomi Osaka after tennis star reveals depression battle following French Open withdrawal

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Athletes from across the world of sport have offered their support to Naomi Osaka, who announced her withdrawal from the French Open because of the furore caused by her boycott of media duties.

The world number two won her opening match against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday but her decision not to take part in press conferences or interviews has been the biggest talking point of the tournament.

The grand slams reacted strongly to Osaka's move, fining her and threatening potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments should she not reconsider.

On Monday, Osaka confirmed she would be withdrawing from the tournament after revealing she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first slam title at the US Open in 2018. The 23-year-old lifted that trophy to a chorus of boos after opponent Serena Williams was awarded a game penalty, and says that talking to the media triggers her anxiety.

Osaka wrote on Twitter: "Hey everyone, this isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago.

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"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 be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer," she continued. "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.

"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."

American Coco Gauff replied to Osaka's tweet to express her support and admiration.

The world number 25 wrote: "Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability."

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Martina Navratilova tweeted her best wishes, saying: "I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be OK.

"As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi - we are all pulling for you!

"And kudos to Naomi Osaka for caring so much about the other players. While she tried to make a situation better for herself and others, she inadvertently made it worse. Hope this solution, pulling out, as brutal as it is will allow her to start healing and take care of her SELF."

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British athletics star Katarina Johnson-Thompson tweeted: "she’s so brave to speak out & protect her well-being. Mental health, especially in sport, is such a risky topic to be open about.

"Hopefully change will come off the back of her withdrawal and it will open up conversations around depression in sport to break down the stigma".

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French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton said deof Osaka’s decision: "First and foremost 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. And we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year."

Moretton said the four major tournaments, and the professional tennis tours, "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 always have."

Additional reporting by PA and AP.

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Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open amid media boycott backlash

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