Naomi Osaka has thanked a number of stars, including Michele Obama and Novak Djokovic, for lending their support during her time away from the game.
Tennis World No.2 Osaka is currently taking a break from the sport on mental health grounds, after sensationally withdrawing from the French Open at the end of last month.
The Japanese star created a storm after refusing to participate in tennis' obligatory press conferences at Roland Garros, prompting a fine from tournament organisers and the threat of being banned from future tournaments if she continued to do so.
But in an essay in Time magazine’s Olympic preview issue, on sale Friday, Osaka wrote that she hopes “we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones,” and suggests they be allowed to sometimes skip media obligations without punishment.
“There can be moments for any of us where we are dealing with issues behind the scenes,” the 23-year-old Osaka said.
“Each of us as humans is going through something on some level.”
Naomi Osaka reveals star support during break
Osaka pulled out of the French Open after revealing the pressure she felt when dealing with the media.
She subsequently withdrew from Wimbledon to spend time away from the game with her family.
In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK however, Osaka said she had been focusing on her preparation for the Olympics and confirmed she would attend press conferences.
But during that time, Osaka revealed former US First Lady Michele Obama, NBA star Steph Curry, Olympic legend Michael Phelps and fellow tennis star Novak Djokovic reached out to her to lend support.
Osaka said Phelps told her that by speaking out on her mental health battle, she may have saved a life.
In her piece for Time, Osaka further detailed that she does not seek the spotlight in her life.
“Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight,” she wrote for Time.
“I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”
Osaka has made it clear she wants to represent her country in her home Grand Slam and has offered some words of advice to those reading her piece.
“It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does,” Osaka wrote in her essay, adding later: “I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it.”
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