PARIS – World No 2 Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from Roland Garros after the controversy over her boycott of media conferences at the tournament.
In a tweet on Monday, the Japanese star explained that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her Grand Slam title in 2018.
“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, ” the 23-year-old wrote in a statement.
Osaka said last week that she will not give any News conferences during the French Open because she wanted to protect her mental health.
She refused to hold a post-match conference after her opening-round victory over Romanian Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday, for which the organizers fined her $15,000.
A statement from the four Grand Slam tournaments also threatened that the four-time major winner may face disqualification in future Grand Slams if the boycott continues.
“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,” Osaka added.
“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.”
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton said the withdrawal of the second seed was “unfortunate”.
“We are sorry and sad for Naomi,” Moretton said. “We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year.”
Osaka lifted her maiden Grand Slam trophy in the 2018 US Open, followed by another victory at the Flushing Meadows Park in 2020 and two titles at the Australian Open in 2019 and this February.
Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, expressed her support to Osaka.
“I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental &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!” the former legend said.
Serena Williams, who dispatched Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in her opening match in Paris, was inevitably asked for her reaction to Osaka’s stunning move.
“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,” the 23-time major title holder said.