Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open amid media boycott controversy

Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open, days after her refusal to speak to media after matches ignited blowback from organizers.

The French Open threatened to kick Naomi Osaka out of the tournament on Sunday. A day later, she took matters into her own hands.

Citing bouts with depression and social anxiety, the 23-year-old Osaka announced Monday she was withdrawing from the French Open amid backlash from her announcement last week that she wasn’t going to speak with the media during the annual Grand Slam event in Paris.

The two-time U.S. Open champion had been fined $15,000 and was facing harsher discipline, including potential expulsion from the tournament, after she followed through on her vow to not answer questions follow her first-round victory on Sunday at Roland Garros over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig.

“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the others 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 Monday in a Twitter post. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer.

“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.”

Naomi Osaka announced Monday she is withdrawing from the French Open amid controversy over her media boycott.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

The Japanese-born star first rose to worldwide prominence when she broke down in tears following her first major championship at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows nearly three years ago. Osaka, then 20, defeated Serena Williams, who had argued with the chair umpire at Arthur Ashe Stadium during the match.

She also won the U.S. Open in 2020 and captured two additional Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open in 2019 and earlier this year. Osaka never has advanced past the third round in four previous appearances at the French Open.

“Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones, as that helps dull my social anxiety,” Osaka wrote. “Though the tennis press always has been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.

“So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious, so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. 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.”

Osaka added that she plans to “take some time away from the court now” for an undisclosed time. Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam event of the season, is slated to begin in less than a month on June 28.

“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 to conclude her social-media post. “Anyways, hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys [and] I’ll see you when I see you.”

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Peter Botte

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