SPORTS

4-time Slam champ Osaka out of French Open, cites anxiety

Jun 1, 2021, 7:03 AM
FILE - Japan's Naomi Osaka returns the ball to Romania's Patricia Maria Tig during their first roun...
FILE - Japan's Naomi Osaka returns the ball to Romania's Patricia Maria Tig during their first round match of the French open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, in this Sunday, May 30, 2021, file photo. Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday, May 31, and wrote on Twitter that she would be taking a break from competition, a dramatic turn of events for a four-time Grand Slam champion who said she has "suffered long bouts of depression."(AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
(AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday and wrote on Twitter that she would be taking a break from competition, a dramatic turn of events for a four-time Grand Slam champion who said she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and revealed she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”

Osaka’s agent, Stuart Duguid, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the world’s No. 2-ranked tennis player was pulling out before her second-round match at the clay-court tournament in Paris.

The stunning move came a day after Osaka, a 23-year-old who was born in Japan and moved with her family to the U.S. at age 3, was fined $15,000 for skipping the postmatch news conference after her first-round victory at the French Open. She also was threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with possible additional punishment, including disqualification or suspension, if she continued with her intention — which Osaka revealed last week on Twitter — to not “do any press during Roland Garros.”

She framed the matter as a mental health issue, saying that it can create self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.

“First and foremost we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate,” French tennis federation president Gilles Moretton said Monday. “We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery. And we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.”

Moretton said the four major tournaments, and the professional tennis tours, “remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we always have.”

In Monday’s post, Osaka spoke about dealing with depression since the 2018 U.S. Open, which she won by beating Serena Williams in a final filled with controversy.

“I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly,” Osaka wrote, explaining that speaking with the media makes her anxious.

“I think now 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,” Osaka wrote. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.”

She continued: “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. … I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”

Williams was asked about Osaka on Monday after winning her opening match in the first scheduled night session in French Open history.

“I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. … I’ve been in those positions,” Williams said. “We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick; other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best that she can.”

Osaka has never been past the third round on the French Open’s red clay. It takes seven victories to win a Grand Slam title, which she has done four times at hard-court tournaments: the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020; the Australian Open in 2019 and this February.

“Here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences,” she wrote.

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so. The maximum fine of $20,000 is not a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

“Mental health and awareness around it is one of the highest priorities to the WTA,” the women’s tennis tour said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman. “We have invested significant resources, staffing and educational tools in this area for the past 20-plus years and continue to develop our mental health support system for the betterment of the athletes and the organization. We remain here to support and assist Naomi in any way possible and we hope to see her back on the court soon.”

Other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka’s right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job.

After Osaka’s post Monday, several athletes in tennis and other sports tweeted their support.

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, wrote: “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!”

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry wrote that it was “impressive taking the high road when the powers that be dont protect their own. major respect.”

___

AP Sports Writers Sam Petrequin in Paris and Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.

___

More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Today’s Top Stories

Sports

Aaron Lowe...
Waverly Golden

One year since the passing of Utah football player Aaron Lowe

A year ago, University of Utah defensive back Aaron Lowe was fatally shot in a Sugar House neighborhood following a house party.
1 day ago
Aaron Fotheringham, aka "Wheelz" from Nitro Circus taught and performed tricks at Wheelchair Palooz...
Waverly Golden

Wheelchair Palooza at Woodward Park City

Aaron Fotheringham, aka "Wheelz" from Nitro Circus taught and performed tricks at Wheelchair Palooza in Park City.
3 days ago
Screenshot from the BYU documentary about the Black 14. 10 of the players are pictured next to a ne...
Chris Jacobs

BYU premieres documentary ‘The Black 14: Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls’

The new BYU documentary, "The Black 14" Healing Hearts and Feeding Souls," focuses on a 1969 football game between BYU and the University of Wyoming.
4 days ago
EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 17: The line of scrimmage between the Oregon Ducks and the Brigham Young Cou...
Curt Gresseth

Reporter talks about ugly chant from students at BYU-Oregon game

A Deseret News reporter tat the BYU-Oregon football game on Saturday talks about the anti-LDS chant heard and filmed from the student section and what may happen next.
7 days ago
Easton Oliverson, the Little League baseball player, who was injured in a fall from a bunk bed, ret...
Adam Small

Injured Utah Little Leaguer returns home, family files lawsuit

The lawsuit filed by Easton Oliverson's Utah family is against Little League Baseball and the makers of the bunkbed involved in the accident.
7 days ago
The little league player that was critically injured after falling off a  bunk bed is now fighting ...
Randall Jeppesen and Mark Jones

Easton Oliverson family files lawsuit against LLBB and bunk bed makers

A lawsuit has been filed by the family of Easton Oliverson against Little League Baseball and the makers of the bunk beds he fell off and injured his head just prior to the Little League World Series.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
4-time Slam champ Osaka out of French Open, cites anxiety