Naomi Osaka says she will withdraw from 2021 French Open

Tennis star Naomi Osaka said she’s withdrawing from this year’s French Open.

Osaka posted a statement to Twitter on Monday with her intention to withdraw from the Grand Slam tournament. It follows the controversy surrounding her decision to skip press conferences for the duration of the competition.

“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka began, referencing an earlier statement she put out on May 26. “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.”

Despite Osaka’s win on Sunday night against Patricia Maria Tig, much of the conversation has been around her decision to abstain from press obligations and the resulting fine issued to her by French Open officials.

Osaka said her reasoning for not doing press during the French Open was because of her mental health. She stated there was a disregard for athletes’ mental health during press conferences.

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“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,” she wrote on social media.

“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 that I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety,” Osaka continued.

Osaka won her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open in her match against Serena Williams. After Williams hugged Osaka, she returned to her seat and put a towel over head. In retrospect, Osaka said the enormity of the moment got to her. “I felt like I needed a break from everything,” she previously said.

During the trophy presentation, the crowd booed the 23-year-old, causing her to cry. In her acceptance speech, Osaka acknowledged that she was not the fan favorite.

“I’m sorry it had to end like this,” she said. “I just want to say thank you for watching the match. It was always my dream to play Serena at the U.S. Open finals … I’m really grateful. Thank you.”

Osaka went on to apologize to the press and said that while they have “always been kind” to her, she is not “a natural public speaker” and gets “huge waves of anxiety” before she speaks to the media.

“I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can,” she said. “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.”

Osaka said she wrote to the French Open privately to apologize and is willing to speak to officials after the tournament ends.

“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,” she said.

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