After winning her first Grand Slam in 2018, Japanese American tennis icon Naomi Osaka has suffered from bouts of depression. The tennis ace shared this publicly on Monday when she withdrew from the French Open, citing ongoing mental health struggles. The superstar athlete was fined some $15,000 by the French Open tournament after dodging the media on Sunday following her victory over Patricia Maria Tig of Romania.
Osaka had posted on social media Wednesday that she had no intention of speaking to any media outlets during the tournament. She expressed her hope that the fines she’d incur for this would be donated to mental health charities. In spite of her earlier statement about the decision, the tournament still fined her and chastised her for avoiding the media.
The tennis pro shared her reasoning for avoiding the media on her Twitter account Monday. “I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can. 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,” she explained.
“I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense.”
Osaka went on to say she’d be taking time away from the sport to focus on her own mental health. She hopes to work with the tournament in the future to help shape a version of the contest that is better for both athletes and fans.
The official Twitter account for Roland Garros (another name for the French Open) posted a now-deleted tweet last week showing several competitors in the tournament speaking to the media after their matches. The caption for the post read “they understood the assignment,” leading to those sympathetic to Osaka’s mental health decision calling out both Roland Garros and the French Tennis Federation.
The Federation’s president, Gilles Moretton, offered a public apology over the tweet and expressed regret for the way events unfolded.
However, Osaka was still fined for not attending the media appearance, with Roland Garros publicly stating that the rules should “apply equally for all athletes”. Some online have taken this to mean that Roland Garros is suggesting Osaka was trying to use her fame and status to avoid the media. The incident has been described as a microcosm of the general lack of understanding about mental health in most of the world.