Tennis-We need Naomi, says Monfils after Osaka's French Open withdrawal

·2-min read
Tennis: French Open

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) -French number one Gael Monfils said tennis needed Naomi Osaka back on court after the Japanese player withdrew from the French Open amid a row over her media duties and revealed she had been struggling with depression.

One of the biggest names in sport, Osaka stunned the tennis world when she pulled out of the Grand Slam on Monday after being fined and threatened with expulsion for declining to face the media after her first-round match on Sunday.

She received support from her home country, sponsors, fellow athletes and fans, with Monfils chipping in after his first-round win at Roland Garros on Tuesday.

"We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100%. We need her back on the court, back on the press conference, and back happy. You know, that's what we need," world number 15 Monfils told a news conference.

Monfils said all players were not similarly equipped to deal with the pressure of being a top athlete.

"What she's dealing with is tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things," he said.

"I think she's quite young. She's handling it quite well. Sometimes we want maybe too much from her, and then how she says maybe she can't manage it that well, so sometimes for sure she's going to make some mistakes.

"But I give her always the chance because she's a champion, she's quite young, she has a huge influence... So I think she needs... to take some time for herself to work on herself, feel better."

Osaka announced last week that she was not going to participate in the mandatory post-match press conferences because of how they can affect a player's mental wellbeing and she carried through on her stance by not talking to media after her first-round victory.

American veteran Venus Williams said doing press was "not easy" after she bowed out in the first round on Tuesday but the 40-year-old explained how she has coped throughout her career.

"For me personally how I deal with it was that I know every single person asking me a question can't play as well as I can and never will," the 40-year-old said.

"So no matter what you say or what you write, you'll never light a candle to me. So that's how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently."

Osaka said that she would take time away from the court in order to focus on her mental health and wanted to talk to the sport's organisers to improve the protocols.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; additional reporting by Martyn Herman, Editing by Toby Davis)