Tennis champion Naomi Osaka announced that she would be withdrawing from the French Open to protect her mental health. The news comes just a day after she was fined $15,000 for choosing not to participate in a mandatory news conference after her first round victory in the Grand Slam tournament.
In a statement posted to her social media, Osaka, 23, said that she did not want to draw attention from the French Open and has struggled with mental health issues for at least three years.
“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer,” she said. “More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. 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.”
Osaka said on May 26 that she would not be speaking to media at the French Open, saying that there was a lack of concern for mental health during press conferences.
“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,” she said in a tweet. “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.”
Roland-Garros tournament officials warned that her continued refusal to speak to the media, which they noted was was a “contractual obligation,” could result in Osaka defaulting from the French Open and further fines and penalties.
Osaka is currently the world’s No. 2 ranked women’s singles tennis player. She won in the first round of the French Open, defeating Patricia Maria Tig.