Serena Williams, Steph Curry, others support Naomi Osaka

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has dropped out of the French Open only a few days after making a public announcement via social media that she would not entertain questions from the press prior to and during the prestigious tennis tournament. Osaka is at odds with the Women’s Tennis Association and had been threatened with expulsion from the upcoming Grand Slam tournament event for her refusal to participate in press conferences after her matches. Osaka explained that pressure from the press is distracting and negatively impacts her game and her ability to perform with confidence.

“I feel for Naomi. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently,” Williams told reporters after her match on Monday. “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.”

On Twitter, other professional athletes showered Osaka with comfort and love.

“You shouldn’t ever have to make a decision like this,” four-time NBA champ Steph Curry tweeted. “But so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don’t protect their own.”

This whole drama started last week when Naomi Osaka posted on social media that she wouldn’t be speaking to the press during the French Open because she believes it can harm the mental health of athletes, particularly when they have to answer insensitive questions fresh off of a loss.

“I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well,” she continued. “I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while [they’re] down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

But once the powers that be got wind of her refusal to conduct interviews with the media, she was assessed a $15,000 fine for failing to appear at a press conference related to the tournament and threatened with even harsher penalties should her media blackout continue.

Naomi Osaka — who is now the highest-paid female athlete in the world — said she would rather pay the fine than sacrifice her mental health by forcing herself to speak to the press, and ultimately withdrew from the French Open completely.

Osaka explained that she’s been battling depression and anxiety for years and wants the focus to be on the game and not cause any distractions.

From Naomi 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 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 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 am introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.

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