Tennis great Martina Navratilova has declared her support for Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open amid backlash over her decision to boycott talking to the media. Taking to Twitter, Navratilova said she was "sad" to hear news about Osaka, adding that she was backing the tennis star.
"I truly hope she will be ok," Navratilova wrote. "As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi."
Osaka first caused a stir when she announced that she would not be participating in any press conferences during the upcoming French Open as a way of protecting her own mental health.
"I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one," the 23-year-old wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. "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 not just going to subject myself to people that doubt me."
Osaka was subsequently fined $15,000 after skipping a post-match press conference after her first-round victory at Roland Garros. She made the call to pull out of the French Open after receiving the fine.
In a lengthy statement, Osaka admitted it was not something she "ever imagined or intended" to do, but explained that it was the best decision for the tournament, other players, and her own well-being.
"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer," she said.
"More important I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that."
Osaka explained that she had been feeling"vulnerable and anxious" while in Paris, and decided to skip the press conferences as a way of exercising "self-care."
"I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that," she continued. “I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I’m gonna take some time way 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 playoffs, press and fans."
In response to her withdrawal, French Open organizers said they looked forward to having Osaka return to the tournament next year, adding that they were committed to "all athletes’ well-being" while also "continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our Tournament, including with the Media, like we have always strived to do."
Zoe Papadakis ✉
Zoe Papadakis is a Newsmax writer based in South Africa with two decades of experience specializing in media and entertainment. She has been in the news industry as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers, magazine and websites.
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