By: Sam Cohen
PARIS – Naomi Osaka announced Monday she is withdrawing from the French Open.
“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,” she posted.
The announcement on her social media accounts comes one day after the heads of the four major tennis organizations wrote a letter in which Osaka was fined $15,000 for not participating in press conferences at the event and threatened more penalties if she continued to not engage with the media at Grand Slam events.
Last week, a few days before the French Open started, Osaka posted on social media that she was not going to participate in media briefings at the tournament at Roland-Garros Stadium. She cited mental health concerns, saying she “often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health,” and that press conferences can cause some to break down.
“I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it,” she continued.
In response, a public letter fined Osaka.
“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” the letter about the fine reads. “These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story.”
The letter was signed by the heads of the U.S. Tennis Association, the French Tennis Federation, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and Tennis Australia.
In her post on Monday, Osaka said “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.”
She said she has suffered “bouts of depression” since 2018 and that she would “get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.”
Heading into the French Open, Osaka said she had wanted to exercise “self-care” by skipping the press conferences, and announced it early to highlight what she calls are “quite outdated” rules.
Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati.