Naomi Osaka Got Fined For Putting Her Mental Health First, So She Pulled Out Of The French Open

Naomi really said: Game, set, match.

naomi osaka french open mental health

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Naomi Osaka, the star tennis player who recently won the Women’s Singles title at the Australian Open, has officially pulled out of the French Open for mental health reasons.

Early this morning, Osaka announced that withdrawing from the competition would be “the best thing for the tournament” following the criticism she faced for deciding to not speak to media during the French Open.

“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 in a statement posted to Twitter.

“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.”

“Though the tennis press has always been kind to me, I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” the former-world number one continued. “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’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.”

Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal comes after she was fined $15,000 for “not honouring her contractual media obligations” during the French Open.

On May 27, Osaka announced that she would not do press during the tournament because she felt that press conferences often feel like “kicking a person while they’re down” with people having “no regard for athletes mental health”.

“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” Osaka wrote on Twitter.

“Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament and a couple journalists have interviewed me since I was young so I have a friendly relationship with most of them,” the tennis star continued.

“However, if the organisations think that they can just keep saying, ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined’, and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centrepiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh.”

As Naomi Osaka suspected, she was not only fined for her media silence but she was also threatened with suspension from future Grand Slam tournaments if she continued to not speak to press.

“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” the Roland-Garros team wrote in a statement on Sunday.

“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences.”

After the the fine was issued, the response to Naomi Osaka’s decision to not do press was mixed.

Ash Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, noted that “press is kind of part of the job” and that players “know what we sign up for as professional tennis players”. Similarly, 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal added that “without the press… probably we will not be the athletes that we are today.”

But non-players have offered their support for Naomi Osaka, sharing their confusion over how someone could actually be punished for putting their mental health first in 2021.

In response to Osaka’s withdrawal, the French Tennis Federation said it was “unfortunate” and that they were “sorry and sad” for the player.

“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 during a press conference.

“We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery. And we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year.”

The irony? Well, Gilles Moretton refused to take any questions from journalists at his press conference — the very thing that Naomi Osaka was fined for doing.