Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open; ‘I never wanted to be a distraction’

Sports

Naomi Osaka, of Japan, reacts during the women’s singles final against Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, during the US Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

PARIS (AP) — Naomi Osaka says on Twitter “the best thing for the tournament” is if she withdraws from the French Open.

In her post, Osaka offered an apology for skipping press conferences between the French Open.

Osaka was fined $15,000 at the French Open for skipping a post-match news conference after her first-round victory Sunday — and threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with stiffer penalties, including being defaulted, if she continues to avoid meeting with the media.

In her initial May 26 post on Twitter, Osaka said she would not do any press before the event, explaining, “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.”

On May 31, Osaka posted on Twitter explaining her decision to drop out of the French Open in the wake of controversy surrounding her decision to skip press conference.

In her post, she wrote:

Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. 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. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that. 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. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and 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. So 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. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. 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. Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I’ll see you when I see you.”

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