Prior to the start of the French Open, tennis star Naomi Osaka told her fans that she would be taking a break from post-match press conferences due to mental health concerns. Osaka noted that she had been feeling a lot of anxiety as of late and that the media only exacerbates those feelings. Upon hearing this, many fans felt like Osaka was disrespecting the media, and there were quite a few journalists who felt the same way. 

After winning her first match over the weekend, Osaka got hit with a $15,000 fine for not speaking to the media. In fact, the tournament warned her that she could be expelled should she continue with her media silence. Following this fine, Osaka decided to withdraw from the tournament today, and in the tweet below, she explains why. Ultimately, Osaka never meant to disrespect anyone in the media, and simply wanted to speak out about mental health, which has affected her for quite some time. Osaka even stated that her social anxiety is elevated during tournaments and that it made her rethink her ability to handle the media, especially during vulnerable moments. 

Per Osaka:

"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. 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. 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.

"So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. 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. 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."

Osaka's decision to drop out of the tournament is a shocking one although it is certainly understandable. The tennis star recognizes that her mental health is what's most important right now and that she would be better off tending to herself, than playing tennis. It's certainly a hard decision to make, and we wish her the best as she looks to recover.

Naomi Osaka

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