On Tuesday, the 40-year-old seven-time Grand Slam singles champion went viral for a fiercely pointed response to an inquiry about how she handles the pressure from media attention. The question came in the wake of Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from the 2021 French Open due to depression and social anxiety.
In a press conference after her first-round loss to Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova, Venus noted that she's learned it's "definitely not easy to do press" over her 26-year tennis career but, her experience has taught her the best way to deal with the burden.
"For me personally, how I cope, how I deal with it, was that I know every single person asking me a question can't play as well as I can and never will," Venus told the gathered press. "So no matter what you say, or what you write, you'll never light a candle to me."
"That's how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently," she added.
Naomi withdrew from the tournament on Monday, less than a week after she announced she would not participate in press conferences at the French Open. At the time, Naomi wrote that she believed the practice is harmful to athletes' mental health. She was subsequently fined $15,000 for not "honoring her contractual media obligations." The four-time Grand Slam winner could have faced harsher penalties if she continued to refuse to speak to the media.
"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 shared in a statement posted to social media, speaking candidly about her struggles. She wrote that she's always dealt with social anxiety, which is often exacerbated in situations like press conferences. She explained that she was already feeling "vulnerable and anxious," and viewed skipping press conferences as an act of "self-care."
Her decision not to compete was met with many athletes taking to social media to support her efforts to prioritize her emotional and mental well-being. Serena Williams -- who is competing in this year's French Open -- addressed the news at a post-match press conference following her round-one victory. The tennis pro echoed her sister's sentiments, telling reporters, "I feel for Naomi."
"Not everyone is the same. I'm thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently," Serena said, according to The Associated Press. "You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That's the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can."
Naomi wrote in her statement that, while she is taking time away from the sport, she hopes to work with the tournament to make things better for players "when the time is right." See more on Naomi's exit below.