Earlier this week, Naomi Osaka announced that she would not be doing media appearances for the upcoming French Open, a decision that earned her a $15,000 fine. Just days later, she withdrew from one of tennis’ biggest events completely.
The 23-year old phenom is one of tennis’ brightest young stars. She is currently ranked No. 2 in the world, and already has four Grand Slam titles under her belt: the 2018 and 2020 U.S. Opens and 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens. Last year, she was named one of Sports Illustrated‘s Sportspersons of the Year.
“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 said of her decision to withdraw from the event. She cited concerns for her mental health, opening up about her battles with depression and anxiety.
“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka continued. “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.”
“I feel for Naomi, and I wish I could give her a hug because I’ve been in those situations,” said Serena Williams. “You have to let her handle it the way she wants to in the best way she can.” https://t.co/hXrfD6hOmm
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 1, 2021
Her opponent in that 2018 US Open, Serena Williams, is empathetic to what Osaka is dealing with. As one of the most beloved and scrutinized athletes of the last 25 years, regardless of sport or gender, she says that people need to give the young star space to work through things and return to the court.
“I feel for Naomi, and I wish I could give her a hug because I’ve been in those situations,” she said, via The New York Times. “You have to let her handle it the way she wants to in the best way she can.”
Hopefully Naomi Osaka’s absence is temporary, and she can get back to competing for Grand Slams very soon.