NEWS
01/06/2021 08:08 BST | Updated 01/06/2021 08:09 BST

Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open, Citing Mental Health Struggles

The four-time Grand Slam champion was fined a day earlier for her decision to boycott the media during the major tennis tournament.

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka said on Monday that she’s withdrawing from the French Open, days after announcing she would boycott the press at the tournament to protect her mental health.

In a statement posted to her Instagram, the 23-year-old Japanese pro tennis player said dropping out from the high-profile event was “the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being.”

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka wrote. “More importantly I would never trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.”

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam winner, went on to reveal that she’s had “long bouts of depression” since the US Open in 2018 and has 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 my social anxiety,” Osaka wrote.

“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,” she added.

On Sunday, the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – announced in a joint statement that Osaka would be fined £10,000 for “choosing not to honour her contractual media obligations.”

In their statement, the officials said they have “significant resources dedicated to player wellbeing” but needed players to engage with them on these issues. 

“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” according to the statement.

The officials warned that Osaka could face suspension from future tournaments for violating the code of conduct if she continues to refuse to speak with the media. 

In her Instagram post on Sunday, Osaka said she had privately apologised to French Open officials when she made her initial announcement about not speaking to the press. She said she told them she would be “more than happy” to speak with reporters after the tournament ended.

“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,” Osaka wrote. 

Osaka isn’t the only tennis player who has skipped media appearances. In 2016, Venus Williams paid a £3,500 penalty to avoid discussing her early exit from the Australian Open. In 2010, she and her tennis star sister, Serena, were fined £2,800 each for failing to speak to reporters after a doubles match at Wimbledon.

Other players, including Andre Agassi, Mats Wilander, Goran Ivanisevic, Victoria Azarenka and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, have also paid to skip press events.

Useful websites and helplines

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.