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Amid press conference controversy, Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open
The world No. 2 "never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer."
Published Jun 01, 2021
WATCH: Tennis Channel commentators' reaction to the stunning news, from Roland Garros.
A day after her first-round win at Roland Garros—one surrounded by controversy, given her pre-tournament decision to skip press conferences—world No. 2 Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open.
The four-time Grand Slam champion was clearly affected by the compounding pressure that her stance was, theoretically, intended to relieve.
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 move comes after the Grand Slam tournaments put out a statement of their own, in response to Osaka's refusal to participate in post-match press on Sunday, saying that she could "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."
Here is Osaka's full statement, posted over social media just before 8 p.m. local time in Paris.
Reaction ranged from shock at the news itself to concern for Osaka, in respect to the social anxiety she referenced.
"She is very close to her family; her parents have done a remarkable job the last few years, grooming this superstar and then stepping back and letting her life her life," said former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel. "I imagine that her family and her support team is really going to rally around her, and build her back up."
"First and foremost, we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka," Gilles Moretton, President of the FFT, wrote in a statement. "The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland-Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our Tournament next year. As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our Tournament, including with the Media, like we have always strived to do."
On Twitter, Mardy Fish wrote, "Mental Health is nothing to criticize. Nothing to joke about. Pls take your mental health seriously. Without my support system, I truly believe I would not be here today. Here for you @naomiosaka"
"Stay strong," Coco Gauff tweeted, with a heart emoji. "I admire your vulnerability."
Osaka's message even caught the attention of U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: