'So sad': French Open rocked by Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal

·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Naomi Osaka, pictured here speaking to the media at the Australian Open in 2020.
Naomi Osaka talks to the media at the Australian Open in 2020. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka has announced her shock withdrawal from the French Open due to the furore created by her decision to boycott all media duties.

The World No.2 announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros on Monday, revealing she has "suffered long bouts of depression" and will "take some time away from the court".

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Osaka 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 Board reacted strongly to Osaka's move, releasing a joint statement on Sunday that, along with a fine of $15,000, threatened her with potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments should she not reconsider.

On Monday, Osaka decided it was in her best interests to withdraw from the tournament.

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

"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."

The Japanese star revealed she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first grand slam title at the US Open in 2018, when she lifted the trophy to a chorus of boos after opponent Serena Williams was awarded a game penalty, and that talking to the media triggered anxiety.

"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."

Naomi Osaka, pictured here in action against Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open.
Naomi Osaka in action against Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Tennis world rallies around Naomi Osaka

Osaka's sister Mari has earlier attempted to explain more about her sibling's stance with a post on the Reddit, highlighting her feelings of vulnerability on clay.

But she abruptly deleted her post and replaced it with an apology, saying she felt she had made things worse.

Osaka's Twitter post continued: "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 pre-emptively 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."

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American Coco Gauff replied to Osaka's tweet to express her support and admiration, writing: "Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability."

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."

Wimbledon starts in four weeks and it remains to be seen whether Osaka, whose next tournament is scheduled to be in Berlin in two weeks' time, will play on grass, where she has also struggled.

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