Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and former player Mardy Fish were among the leading names from the tennis community to express their support to Naomi Osaka after her withdrawal from the French Open on Monday and her revelation that she has been suffering long periods of depression.
World number two Osaka, who had already been fined $15,000 and warned with disqualification for refusing to take part in news conferences after, said she was going to take a break.
“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,” said the 23-year-old Japanese star, a four-time Grand Slam title winner, who had won the first round match in straight sets.
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 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.
“In Paris, I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.”
Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open 2021: Here’s all you need to know
Full text: ‘I never wanted to be a distraction’ – Naomi Osaka’s statement
Speaking after her first round win late on Monday, Serena Williams said she “feels for” Naomi Osaka and has also experienced “very difficult” press conferences in her career.
“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like,” said the 39-year-old, after her first-round 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu in the first ever night match at Roland Garros.
“We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. 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…
“I’ve been where I’ve been very difficult to walk in (to press conferences) in those moments. But, you know, it made me stronger.”
Here are the reactions to Osaka’s announcement: