Tennis leaders promise to offer Naomi Osaka ‘support and assistance’ about mental health concerns
A day after tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments responded with a statement on Tuesday promising to address her concerns about mental health.
The four tennis administrators from the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open threatened to disqualify and/or suspend Osaka on Sunday if she continued to skip post-match press conferences, but two days later they put out a pledge offering support and assistance to the four-time major champion.
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“On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate,” the statement read. “Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another.
“We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face.”
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Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday after she was fined $15,000 when she didn’t talk to reporters after her first-round victory at Roland-Garros on Sunday. She said she would “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.”
The next day, Osaka pulled out of the tournament, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”
French tennis federation President Gilles Moretton, All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt, U.S. Tennis Association President Mike McNulty, and Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka pledged to work with players, the tours and media “to improve the player experience at our tournaments” while making sure the athletes all are on a “fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status.”
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In another statement sent to the Associated Press via email, International Tennis Federation official Heather Bowler said the sport will “review what needs to evolve” after Osaka “shone a light on mental health issues.”
“It’s in all our interests to ensure that we continue to provide a respectful and qualitative environment that enables all stakeholders to do their job to their best ability, without impacting their health, and for the good of the sport,” Bowler wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.