(CBS Los Angeles)- Women’s world No. 2 tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday, announcing in an Instagram post that she needed to step away to work on her mental health. The 23-year-old Beverly Hills resident had been in a struggle with the officials of the tournament over her obligations to appear at press conferences after each match, with French Tennis Federation officials fining her $15,000 over the weekend for skipping the post match press conference after her win over Patricia Tig on Sunday.
In her post, Osaka she has been struggling with long bouts of depression since the 2018 U.S. Open and that her social anxiety was the reason she had hoped to be able to skip the press conferences during the tournament.
“Though the tennis press has always 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,” Osaka wrote. “I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.”
After her announcement, athletes from across the sports world sent messages of support to Osaka, standing with her as she works through this tough moment in her career. Fellow tennis star Serena Williams said she wished she could hug Osaka, knowing what it’s like to be in her place.
"I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. Like I said, I've been in those positions.”
Serena Williams on Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open pic.twitter.com/bkDeB0JWtW
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 1, 2021
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving had words of support for Osaka as well, commenting on Osaka’s post, “We are all with you Queen. Just be you, that will always be enough.”
Kyrie with a message for Naomi Osaka 🙏 pic.twitter.com/GIogIg7BJa
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) June 1, 2021
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry tweeted his support, saying “You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own. major respect @naomiosaka”
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) May 31, 2021
It wasn’t just athletes lending their support Monday either. Osaka’s sponsors, including Nike, Mastercard and Tag Heuer all released statements standing behind Osaka’s decision.
“Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience,” Nike said.
After Osaka’s announcement, FFT President Giles Morretton read a statement which said:
“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. 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.”
Moretton then did not take questions from reporters, something that was not lost on those covering the situation.
They fined Osaka for not taking questions, then the head refused to take questions. You cannot make this stuff up.
This is why you can’t take these organizations seriously. https://t.co/Bvnw2hHHPC
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) May 31, 2021
This is a well written statement, clearly under much duress. Mental health is incredibly important and one shouldn’t need such deep courage to say so.
— Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) May 31, 2021