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The US Open's decision to offer players the services of licensed mental health providers and 'quiet rooms' at the hard-court grand slam has sparked an ugly debate online.
The United States Tennis Association announced the initiatives this week, saying it wants to “ensure that a comprehensive and holistic approach will be taken with all aspects of player health, including mental health.”
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“Our goal is to make mental health services as readily available to athletes as services for a sprained ankle - and with no stigma attached,” said Dr Brian Hainline, a USTA first vice president.
“We will provide an environment that fosters wellness while providing the necessary resources to readily allow mental health care seeking.
"Quiet rooms and other support services will be provided. The US Open will work closely and collaboratively with the WTA and ATP sport science and medicine staff on site in an effort to ensure players understand the enhanced medical services available, and how to access these health offerings as needed.”
Defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka put mental health in the spotlight when she pulled out of the French Open in late May, then decided not to play Wimbledon.
She said she has “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking at media conferences and that she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”
However the US Open's new initiatives haven't gone down well with some, with controversial American journalist Megyn Kelly among those to express their disdain.
“Good Lord please never let the snowflakes who need this sign up for our military," she tweeted.
Former NBA player and podcast host Rex Chapman savaged Kelly's take, replying: "My God. A person who’s never played a higher level sport in her life chiming-in on something she has absolutely no clue about. America. Revolting. Smh.
“She’s all here when we win games and medals and s*** but when we fail to live up to her white privilege - we suck.
“Young athletes are child actors in many ways. Having no sympathy for what their young brains might be going through - in order to entertain you - is confusing.”
American tennis player Tennys Sandgren described Kelly's comments as "disgusting", while Aussie great Rennae Stubbs was also fuming.
A person who’s never played a higher level sport in her life chiming-in on something she has absolutely no clue about. America. Revolting. Smh. pic.twitter.com/Mil9uXOpzI
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 27, 2021
Quiet rooms are nothing new at majors
Disgusting pisslo clickbait from fox and you
— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) August 26, 2021
Genuine question. Why go after people/associations who are trying to do better?? Explain that to me!?? I hope your husband doesn’t dare turn the tennis on during the open. Oh and btw u need to seriously get a mirror and look in it every time u tweet something so asinine.
— Rennae Stubbs OLY (@rennaestubbs) August 27, 2021
Which sport are you ranked internationally in?
Which branch of military did you serve in?
You’re a preening pathetic hack who doesn’t know the first thing about sacrifice, service, or pressure.
Delete your account, you bleached clown.
— The USA Singers (@TheUSASingers) August 26, 2021
Megyn Kelly is somehow even worse now than when she was on Fox News.
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) August 26, 2021
Naomi Osaka left 'muddled' ahead of US Open
Meanwhile, Osaka has revealed how she is left "muddled" by struggling to divorce tennis from her personal life.
The World No.3 broke down in tears in Cincinatti earlier this month at her first press conference since withdrawing from the French Open.
Asked ahead of the US Open whether she saw the tennis court as her sanctuary, Osaka replied: "It would be nice if there was that line for me, but no.
"I'm the type of person that everything is sort of the same. So, like, I feel like maybe you could see it earlier on in my career.
"If there was something that was not right in my personal life, you could kind of see it in my playing.
"So it would be really cool if I could draw that line and be able to be like a robot Superman that could go on the court, focus just on tennis.
"But, no, I'm the type that kind of focuses on everything at one time. That's why, like, everything is sort of muddled to me."
The Japanese star, who lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics, has said in the past she feels self-conscious at times about going out in public.
She will be back in the spotlight when the US Open begins on Monday with crowds back after the coronavirus pandemic.
"It will definitely feel a bit different," Osaka said.
"I don't really know how to describe it, but I kind of had to get over the feeling of people's gazes feeling a bit different to me.
"At the same time I started to tell myself that it is what it is. I can't really change people's perception of me.
"It might make me feel a little bit nervous. But first rounds always make me feel a little nervous."
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