Tennis star Naomi Osaka played one match at the French Open and now she’s headed home.
The world’s No. 1 tennis attraction said she’s withdrawing from the French Open after previously announcing she would be skipping press conferences — a move she called necessary for her mental health, but also resulted in Osaka receiving a $15,000 fine and threatening criticism from the USTA.
Her decision sparked conversations about the responsibility of athletes to make themselves available to the media and probing questions amid the tension and stress of a major tournament.
Retired tennis stars John McEnroe and Billie Jean King weighed in and some of the conservative media reacted with fake outrage.
“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,” the four-time Grand Slam winner Osaka said in a posted note via Twitter.
Osaka described the intense anxiety she feels while speaking to the media, even as she acknowledged the tennis press has always treated her well.
“The truth is I’ve suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018, and I’ve really had a hard time coping with that.”
Media interviews are mandatory for participants of the French Open also called Roland-Garros. Organizers of the tournament said in a joint statement with international tennis bodies on Sunday that she was fined $15,000 for failing to honor her “contractual media obligations.”
“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, no matter the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” organizers of the Grand Slam said.
In the past Osaka has stated she believes the rules are outdated, and she had apologized to organizers privately and her hope was to speak with them following the event.
In her defense, I’m all for Osaka speaking out about her battle with mental health and being a bi-racial woman of color, makes me wanna defend her even more. I’ve heard grumblings of “she ain’t black enough” because she’s playing for her mom’s native Japan in the upcoming Olympics and not her dad’s native Haiti. Anyone who believes that is just looking for attention and clickbait.
Riding with @naomiosaka. Don't like the way they are treating this accomplished, kindhearted and community-invested Black woman. Regardless of what the "reporter" take is. France never had any love for Blacks and if she doesn't feel comfortable there, then so be it. Ratings ⤵️
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) May 31, 2021
For beginners, she’s funneling her resources to help young girls in Haiti, the US, as well as Japan. The way she carries herself on and off the court makes her a role model for young girls. In fact, my six-year daughter old watches all of Osaka’s matches with me.
IMO her playing for Japan is no different than when Tiger Woods told us he was Cablinasion (Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian) with respect to both his mom and dad.
Osaka says she’s going to take some time from the court right now, but when the time is right she wants to work with the Tour to discuss ways to make things better for all parties involved, which includes the players, press and fans.
My biggest hope is she gets the help she needs with her anxiety and mental health so she can come back and give us fans the great tennis and inspiring personality we’ve grown accustomed to.
After all, Osaka is the brightest star in tennis not named Serena Williams and in some folks’ eyes, she’s even surpassed the “GOAT” in popularity.
Just how big a star is Osaka?
She made a whopping $55.2 million in earnings from May 2020 to May 2021. The most ever by any female athlete in history.
The French Open’s ratings will surely suffer without Osaka in the mix. The four major tournaments probably went about it all wrong when they threatened to fine and basically ban tennis’s biggest star rather than sit with her and come to a compromise.
This saga isn’t nearly finished and people are really split down the middle on this issue of her not wanting to address the press. That can be problematic when the biggest tennis star in the world is playing and reporters are traveling from all over the world to see her.
However, it’s also rare that you see an issue where Candace Owens and Jemele Hill are on the same side of the fence, but in this instance, both agree that Osaka’s mental health should come first.
Naomi Osaka made the right decision. Mental illness is serious and it is always an act of courage to step away to deal with personal issues. Emphasis on the word personal.
It’s becoming too fashionable for one person’s experience to transform into a demand for everybody else…
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) May 31, 2021
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) May 31, 2021
The conversation on mental health just turned up another notch and Osaka is once again at the forefront of an issue that impacts millions of people across the globe.