Naomi Osaka's shock decision to withdraw from the French Open has sparked outrage over her treatment from tennis officials.
Osaka made the bombshell call to quit the French Open on Monday, opening up about her battle with depression in the process.
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The World No.2 copped a $15,000 fine on Sunday after skipping her post-match press conference at Roland Garros, with the Grand Slam Board threatening to kick her out of the French Open if she continued to do so.
The Japanese star had earlier flagged her intention to boycott all media commitments to protect her mental health, criticising the treatment that some players receive during press conferences.
The four grand slams reacted strongly to Osaka's move, releasing a joint statement that threatened her with potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments should she not reconsider.
In response, Osaka announced her withdrawal from the French Open on Monday.
Osaka's decision has sparked an outpouring of support from around the world, with anger also directed at the way tennis officials handled her concerns.
“Every major sport pays lip service to how issues surrounding mental health are a priority, but when Naomi Osaka begs for help because she’s struggling, @rolandgarros and the folks at the French Open kick her out of the tourney,” wrote Donal Logue along with the hashtag "shame on you".
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Sports journalist Dave Zirin said: “The treatment of Osaka by the Lords of Tennis has been shameful”, while Rus McLaughlin wrote: “All four Grand Slam directors publicly threatened Naomi Osaka’s career for not doing press conferences.
"That doing the puppet theatre is more important to them than top athletes playing the game itself pretty much solidifies my opinion of the International Tennis Federation.”
American teen Coco Gauff wrote: “Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability", while Venus Williams commented: “So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
Sloane Stephens commented: “We’re behind you babygirl, take the time you need!”
Martina Navratilova tweeted: “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 & 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.”
Rapper boyfriend Cordae commented on her Instagram post: “No need to apologise to ANYBODY!”
Others described Osaka's treatment as "disgusting" and "disgraceful".
stay strong ❤️ I admire your vulnerability
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 31, 2021
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.
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 31, 2021
All four Grand Slam directors publicly threatened Naomi Osaka's career for not doing press conferences.
That doing the puppet theater is more important to them than top athletes playing the game itself pretty much solidifies my opinion of the International Tennis Federation. pic.twitter.com/5JIrwAhr6B
— Rus McLaughlin (@rusmclaughlin) May 31, 2021
Last point: this treatment of Osaka should be a wake up call. Players, their unions and their allies, need to *wake up* and get a strategy for how to deal with this burgeoning backlash and not surrender the ground gained in the last year. It might even mean walking off the court.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) May 31, 2021
Every major sport pays lip service to how issues surrounding mental health are a priority, but when Naomi Osaka begs for help because she's struggling, @rolandgarros and the folks at the French Open kick her out of the tourney. #honteaaàvous
— donal logue (@donallogue) May 31, 2021
I have never, and I mean NEVER, heard of anybody watching a tennis tournament just to get to the post-match press conference. The idea of keeping Naomi Osaka from competing for not wanting to talk to journalists is disgusting and absurd. https://t.co/g98cfeFfV2
— Olivia Truffaut-Wong (@iWatchiAm) May 31, 2021
Naomi Osaka shouldn't have to apologize or even disclose info about her mental health issues like that. I'm really sad for her. It's disgusting that they pushed her to this point
— skincare hoe (@maguyluh) May 31, 2021
This is disgraceful!
"Naomi Osaka fined $15,000 and threatened with expulsion for avoiding the media at French Open" https://t.co/7OL0FNBOio
— Irene Ramsay 💙 (@irene207) May 31, 2021
French Open boss responds to Naomi Osaka withdrawal
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton, who last week labelled Osaka's boycott a “phenomenal error”, addressed the media about Osaka's withdrawal on Monday.
“The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate," he said.
"We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.
“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing, and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament - including with the media, like we have always strived to do.”
And yes, the immense irony of the FFT President not taking questions from the media in the wake of this Osaka withdrawal is not lost on anyone. #RG21
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) May 31, 2021
In her announcement on Monday, Osaka said she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first grand slam title at the US Open in 2018, and that talking to the media triggered her 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 said. "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."
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