Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka announced on Monday that she would be withdrawing from the French Open tournament, one day after she was fined $15,000 for not appearing for a press conference due to mental health issues.
The 23-year-old tennis player announced last week that she would be skipping press conferences in an effort to deal with her social anxiety and battles with depression, which she said she had experienced since the 2018 U.S. Open. In spite of Osaka’s reasoning for skipping press conferences, the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open) chose to fine Osaka for “choosing to not honor her contractual media obligations.” As part of the tournaments, players are required to meet with media personnel following their match.
Osaka stated that by skipping the press conference she could “exercise self-care” while still participating in the tournament. However, the financial risks seemed to play a role in Osaka choosing to remove herself from the French Open entirely. She spoke openly on social media about her struggles, stating that she had decided to step away from the tournament so “everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
The four-time Grand Slam winner is not new to press. She first garnered global attention when she defeated her tennis idol Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open. In 2020, Osaka gained attention again by becoming a leading activist in professional tennis during the 2020 U.S. Open when she wore masks, to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, that displayed the names of African Americans who had been killed in the preceding years, the majority killed by police. Despite her time in the headlines, Osaka has stated on she experiences large amounts of anxiety when she has to step into the spotlight by herself.
Osaka’s public discussion of mental health has brought a new topic into her spotlight. Over the weekend, fellow tennis stars, athletes from various sports and other prominent figures announced their support of Osaka for prioritizing her mental health over her professional obligation. By placing an emphasis on her mental health and stepping away from an event she has dedicated her life to, Osaka can showcase the importance of mental health.
She has promised she isn’t hanging up her racket completely, but rather is taking some time to focus on herself. When she returns, she wants to work with the Tour to make things better for the players, the press and the fans, physically and mentally.