Billie Jean King, Coco Gauff: The reaction to Naomi Osaka's French Open withdrawal

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka has announced her withdrawal from this year’s French Open.

The world number two released a statement last night outlining her decision, which came after she pulled out of media duties during Roland-Garros.

On May 26th, Osaka made the call to step away from the press during the French Open, citing the media “[often] have no regard to athletes’ mental health.” The 23-year-old went on to say she did not want to subject herself to an onslaught of questions that could make her doubt herself on the court.

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

Osaka concluded with the acknowledgment that she would be fined for her decision and she hoped the money would go towards a mental health charity. Surely enough, the Australian Open champion was given a $15,000 (£10,600) fine and threatened with expulsion from the tournament if she stood by her decision to boycott the press conferences.

Naomi Osaka

Support from the industry

After being issued the fine, Osaka made the decision herself to pull out of the competition in France. She also stated she would “be taking some time away from the court” but stressed her eagerness to work with the Tour once she returns, in order to see things become more friendly and fair for both the players and the press.

Osaka’s decision has been met by a barrage of social media support. World number 25 and rising talent Coco Gauff backed the seven-time Grand Slam winner and wrote that she “admires her vulnerability”.

Billie Jean King, who initially had a mixed response to Osaka’s press boycott, has now shown her support and has tipped her hat to the 23-year-old’s raw honesty around her mental health.

Holding French Open champion Iga Świątek stressed that the sport can benefit from a player-media relationship. Speaking after her first round win at Roland-Garros last month, the world number nine said: “Having a good relationship can help you. If I have a problem or something, I’m going to tell you that I’m not comfortable talking [about] that.

“If we treat each other with mutual respect, I think everybody can benefit from that.”

The tennis industry isn’t the only one to get behind Osaka either. WNBA stars Sue Bird and Chiney Ogwumike, NWSL club the North Carolina Courage, and even politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have all backed the Japanese star during this difficult time.

There is no expected return date for Osaka following her most recent statement, but the French Open continues to play out as this year’s fierce competition looks to overthrow reigning champion Świątek.

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