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Osaka withdraws from French Open after bitter row, reveals 'bouts of depression'

AFP/Paris
Filed on May 31, 2021
Naomi Osaka says she withdraws so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. — AFP

The 23-year-old Japanese star was fined $15,000 on Sunday


Naomi Osaka said Monday she was withdrawing from the French Open following the bitter fall-out from her decision to boycott all media activity at the Grand Slam event, revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression” and will now “take some time away from the court”.

“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,” the world number two wrote on Twitter.

The 23-year-old Japanese star was fined $15,000 on Sunday and threatened with disqualification after she refused to carry out a mandatory news conference following her first round win.

She claimed on the eve of Roland Garros that such post-match inquests were akin to “kicking people when they are down” and that they had a detrimental effect on her mental health.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” the four-time Grand Slam title winner said in her statement.

“The truth is I have suffered bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”

She added: “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 out-dated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.”

Osaka said she has also apologised to organisers over the affair which has dominated the early stages of the French Open ever since she warned last week that she would not carry out any media activity.

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton has described her vow of silence as “a phenomenal error”.

The four Grand Slam events — Wimbledon, the French, Australian and US Opens — said they had written to Osaka “to check on her well-being and offer support”.

“She was also reminded of her obligations, the consequences of not meeting them and that rules should equally apply to all players.”

Osaka is the world’s highest earning female athlete, making $37.4 million in 2020.

She burst onto the scene in 2018 with a maiden Slam win at the US Open. She has gone on to win another title in New York as well as two Australian Opens.

Earlier Monday, Osaka’s coach said she wanted to use her superstar status to force change with her media boycott.

“Naomi has the opportunity to use her status to address problems and to initiate things,” Osaka’s Belgian coach Wim Fissette told German magazine Der Spiegel.

“In the United States, the subject is very topical at the moment, as athletes want more freedom in dealing with the press.

“So that they are simply not threatened right away with punishment if they don’t feel well for a day.”

Mari Osaka, a former player herself, said her sister was struggling to cope in the run-up to Paris.

“Naomi mentioned to me before the tournament that a family member had come up to her and remarked that she’s bad on clay,” Mari wrote on Reddit.

“At every press conference she’s told she has a bad record on clay.

“When she lost in Rome, she was not OK mentally. She was completely shattered and I think everyone’s remarks and opinions have gotten to her head and she herself believed that she was bad on clay.”

Factfile on Naomi Osaka

Age: 23

Height: 5ft 11in/1.80m

Born: Osaka, Japan (16/10/1997)

Residence: Boca Raton, Florida

World ranking: 2

Highest ranking: 1 (first achieved January 28, 2019)

Turned pro: 2013

Prize money: $19,773,132

Career WTA titles: 7

Grand Slam titles: 4 (US Open 2018, 2020, Australian Open 2019, 2021)

Coach: Wim Fissette (BEL)

French Open best result: Third round (2016, 2018, 2019)

Wimbledon best result: Third round (2017, 2018)





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