Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open as she bravely admits to depression battle
Naomi Osaka has rocked tennis by pulling out of the French Open and revealing she has suffered from depression since her first Grand Slam victory.
The world 2 announced last week she would not attend mandatory press conferences in Paris to protect her “mental health”.
The four Grand Slam events reacted after her first round win yesterday by fining her $15,000 and threatening to ban her.
Now the four-time major champion has responded by taking to social media to say she no longer wants to play.
She tweeted: “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. 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.
“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 I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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.”
The reigning US and Australian Open champion had started her French Open campaign with a 6-4 7-6 win over Romanian Patricia Maria Tig and later wrote on Twitter: "Anger is a lack of understanding. Change makes people uncomfortable."
Osaka's sister Mari then added to the confusion about her position by publishing and then deleting a post on reditt.
She wrote: “Naomi mentioned to me before the tournament that a family member had come up to her and remarked that she’s bad at clay.
“At every press conference she’s told she has a bad record on clay. When she lost in Rome r1 she was not ok mentally.
“Her confidence was completely shattered and I think that everyone’s remarks and opinions have gotten to her head and she herself believed that she was bad on clay.
“This isn’t true and she knows that in order to do well and have a shot at winning Roland Garros she will have to believe that she can.
“That’s the first step any athlete needs to do, believe in themselves.The French Open has deleted a post on its Twitter feed which praised players for attending media conferences as Naomi Osaka's press boycott continued to overshadow the Grand Slam.
The tweet showed pictures of Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff engaging with the media along with the caption: "They understood the assignment."
ITV4 pundit Anne Keathavong said: “In hindsight it could have been handled differently.”