Naomi Osaka Withdraws From French Open After Media Blackout, Cites Depression and Social Anxiety

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Naomi Osaka will no longer be competing in the French Open. The tennis star shared her decision to drop out of the tournament on Twitter on Monday, citing depression and social anxiety. 

Osaka made headlines last Wednesday when she announced she would not be participating in press conferences at the French Open, which began on Sunday; she wrote at the time that she believed the practice harmful to athletes' mental health.

"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 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," Osaka wrote on Monday. "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," she shared. "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. 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. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can."

Osaka continued, writing that she was already feeling "vulnerable and anxious," and viewed skipping press conferences as an act of "self-care." "I announced it preemptively because I do feel the rules are quite outdated in parts and wanted to highlight that," she said. 

"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," she explained. "I'm gonna take some time away 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 players, press and fans. Anyways hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys I'll see you when I see you."

Gilles Moretton, the president of the French tennis federation, said in a statement to journalists published by The Washington Post, "First and foremost we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka."

Moretton said the decision to withdraw was "unfortunate," and that he wishes her the "quickest possible recovery." He added that he is looking forward to "having Naomi in our tournament next year."

Ahead of her public statement, Osaka was fined $15,000 after not appearing at a press conference at the French Open, the tournament organization announced Sunday. The four-time Grand Slam winner could have faced harsher penalties if she continued to refuse to speak to the media.

"Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct," the four Grand Slam tournaments said Sunday in a joint statement. "As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.)."

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