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

May 31, 2021, 3:10 PM | Updated: 3:50 pm

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE- Adani group Chairman Gautam Adani speaks during the inauguration of the 9th Vibrant Gujarat G...
Associated Press

What is Hindenburg Research, firm accusing Adani of fraud?

NEW YORK (AP) — Hindenburg Research, the financial research firm with an explosive name and a track record of sending the stock prices of its targets tumbling, is taking on one of the world’s richest men. Hindenburg is back in the headlines after last week accusing Indian conglomerate Adani Group of “a brazen stock manipulation […]
5 hours ago
A woman uses her phone to light her way in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel ...
Associated Press

Russia focuses on eastern Ukraine for possible new offensive

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia is mustering its military might in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, local officials said Wednesday, in what Kyiv suspects is preparation for an offensive in the eastern area in coming weeks as the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion approaches. The Kremlin’s forces are expelling local residents from their homes near the […]
5 hours ago
FILE - People stand in an area by the lifts in the new Switch House building extension to the Tate ...
Associated Press

Prying eyes: Neighbors win privacy feud with UK Tate gallery

LONDON (AP) — The U.K. Supreme Court says people who live in glass houses have a right to privacy too. The court ruled Wednesday that a viewing platform at London’s Tate Modern art gallery made residents of glass-walled luxury apartments next door feel like animals in a zoo, and impeded “the ordinary use and enjoyment” […]
5 hours ago
FILE- The Yelp app is seen on an iPad in Baltimore on March 19, 2018. There's been a sharp increase...
Associated Press

Anti-Asian hate ‘runs the gamut,’ racist Yelp reviews show

WASHINGTON (AP) — As if running a restaurant during a pandemic wasn’t tough enough, Christopher Wong also had to contend with a racist troll. “I will not have my dog eat in this place because they might cook him,” read the Yelp review of Wong’s eatery, the Curry Up Cafe in suburban Los Angeles. “The […]
5 hours ago
Customers shop in an Apple store in Pittsburgh Jan. 30, 2023. The Biden administration is taking ai...
Associated Press

Apple and Google app stores get thumbs down from White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is taking aim at Apple and Google for operating mobile app stores that it says stifle competition. The finding is contained in a Commerce Department report being released by the administration on Wednesday as President Joe Biden convenes his competition council for an update on efforts to promote competition […]
5 hours ago
FILE - House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., leads an organi...
Associated Press

Republican-led panel targets COVID relief dollars for review

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 1,000 people have pleaded guilty or have been convicted on federal charges of defrauding the myriad COVID-19 relief programs that Congress established in the early days of the pandemic. And more than 600 other people and entities face federal fraud charges. But that’s just the start, according to investigators scheduled […]
5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
4-time Slam champ Osaka out of French Open, cites anxiety