Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open, citing media pressures and mental health

After stating she’d not speak to the media, the Japanese tennis star withdrew from the competition after the governing body fined and threatened to expel her.

Naomi Osaka
© Getty Images
Naomi Osaka

Following a first round win on Sunday, Naomi Osaka did not fulfill her media obligations, as expected, considering she said this would happen prior to the tournament. Still, the Grand Slam Tournaments were unhappy to hear and fined her $15,000, while threatening expulsion and future suspensions, leading Osaka to withdraw from playing altogether.

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Why she withdrew

Last week, Osaka released a statement on her social media accounts explaining that she would not engage in her media duties, even at the risk of fines, because of the strain it places on her mental health.

She wrote:

We are often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.

After days of both backlash and support, the 23 year old from Osaka, Japan, announced her official withdrawal from the French Open on social media yesterday.

She said:

I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing is that I withdraw so that everyone can go back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.

Osaka explained her history of depression and anxiety, and how press conferences add to these stresses. She apologized to journalists that may have taken the news personally and stated she wants to discuss ways to make the Tour better for players, media, and fans in the future.

Outpour of support

Athletes from within tennis and other parts of the sports world mobilized on social media to support the reigning US and Australian Open champion for prioritizing her mental health over competing.

Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, as well as Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens, voiced their approval of the decision. NBA players, like Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving, who himself has been fined for breaching media protocol, also expressed their support.

Thanks to COVID, 2020 has been the worst year for mental health since World War Two Thanks to COVID, 2020 has been the worst year for mental health since World War Two