Naomi Osaka is one of the most talked about athletes in the world, making particular headlines this week as she pulled out of the French Open.
The Japanese Grand Slam champion found herself at the centre of controversy when after cancelling press obligations due to mental health issues, she was fined $15k by organisers and threatened with expulsion over the press conference row.
The 23-year-old, currently ranked number 2 in the world, withdrew from Roland Garros as a result after her original statement prompted such widespread controversy.
In a later statement announcing her withdrawal, Naomi announced: ‘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.’
She continued: ‘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 trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.’
Since her withdrawal, female athletes have been rallying around her in support, with many high profile names taking to social media to send their thoughts.
‘Stay strong. I admire your vulnerability,’ posted Coco Gauff, while Billie Jean King took to Twitter to post a statement.
‘It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression,’ BJK announced. ‘Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well.’
Serena Williams also voiced her thoughts after her win over Irina-Camelia Begu. ‘The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,’ she explained. ‘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.’
She continued: ‘We have different personalities and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best she can.’
Martina Navratilova also tweeted her support, posting: ‘I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be OK.’
Her statement continued: ‘As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental and emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi – we are all pulling for you!
‘And kudos to Naomi Osaka for caring so much about the other players. While she tried to make a situation better for herself and others, she inadvertently made it worse. Hope this solution, pulling out, as brutal as it is will allow her to start healing and take care of her SELF.’
Thank you Naomi for speaking out about this very important issue.