Four-time Grand Slam-winning tennis champ Naomi Osaka has announced that she’s withdrawing from the French Open, partly to look after her mental health.
The 23-year-old made a statement on social media, revealing that she has had “a really hard time coping” with the “long bouts of depression” she’s experienced since the U.S. Open in 2018. She added that she also suffers from social anxiety and was hoping to “exercise self-care” by leaving the tournament and the media obligations that come with it.
“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,” Osaka wrote in a statement shared on Twitter.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
On May 26, Osaka had announced on Twitter that she would not be attending the press conferences following her matches at the French Open. When she indeed skipped a press conference following her victory on Sunday, May 30, Osaka was fined $15,000 for choosing “not to honor her contractual media obligations.” The next day, Osaka withdrew from the tournament altogether.
Nike, which has sponsored Osaka since 2019, issued a statement in support of her decision, CNN reported.
“Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience,” the statement said.
Other sponsors quickly followed suit, including Mastercard, which had made Osaka a global ambassador in 2019.
“Naomi Osaka’s decision reminds us all how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being,” Mastercard’s statement said. “We support her and admire her courage to address important issues, both on and off the court.”
Amidst the outpouring of love for Osaka on social media were words of support from celebrities, fans and other athletes, including many fellow tennis stars — past and present. Billie Jean King took to Twitter to express her thoughts.
“It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression,” King wrote. “Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well.”
It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression.
Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs.
We wish her well.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) May 31, 2021
Serena Williams shared a similar sentiment in a post-match news conference on Monday, May 31.
“Not everyone is the same,” Williams said, per HuffPost. “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 and the best way she thinks she can. That’s the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can.”