Tennis star Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open and is taking time away from the sport to focus on her mental health.
“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 released via her Twitter account Monday. “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 made headlines before the tournament when she announced she would not be participating in any press conferences due to their negative impact on athlete mental health. The four-time Grand Slam champion was fined $15,000 after missing the press conference after her first-round win Sunday and her stance prompted a wide-ranging discussion on the role media plays in tennis and athlete mental health.
In a statement announcing her fine Sunday, the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments said Osaka had been “advised” 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,” including larger fines and suspensions.
“First and foremost, we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland-Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our Tournament next year,” Gilles Moretton, the French Tennis Federation president, said in a press conference without taking questions. “As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our Tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do.”
In her statement Monday, Osaka said it was never her intention to become a distraction and that she has been battling depression since the 2018 U.S. Open.
“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” Osaka wrote. “More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use that term lightly.”
With files from The Associated Press.