Four times Grand Slam Singles winner, Japanese tennis sensation Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open tournament on May 31 due to her mental health. This decision came after Naomi, 23, was fined $15,000 for not facing the media after her winning match against Romania's Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday, May 30. The tennis player was also warned by the organisers of expulsion from Grand Slam tournaments if she continued to skip the press conferences.
On Monday,Naomi posted a statement on Twitter, saying that she had "suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018" and that "it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences" because she gets "huge waves of anxiety before".
She wrote: "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 sothat everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. 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 trivialise mental health or use the term lightly.
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 the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."
Naomi apologised to journalists for not turning up for the post-game press conference and said that she would like to take some time off from the court. She did not however, commit on how long her break would be.
Currently theworld's highest-earning female athlete,Naomi’s absence from any Grand Slam event may hurt the tournament itself due to heavy interest of sponsors in her.
The Japanese World No. 2 pipped long-time top grosser Serena Williams to second place and moved into first place in the 2020 Forbes list for highest earning female athletes. She earned a massive $37.4 million in 2020, just $2.6 million less than men's tennis heavyweight Rafael Nadal ($40 million). The prize money share of her earnings comprised only $3.4million. The remaining $34 million came from endorsements.
According to a report in 2020 in the Forbes magazine, Naomi has 15 endorsement partners, including Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex. Nike wrested her from Adidas, committing about $10 million annually.It came as no surprise then that French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton wants to see Naomi back at the tournament next year even though he had earlier said that Naomi's decision to not speak to media was a 'phenomenal error'.
"We are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate but we wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery. We look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year,"Moretton said in a short press conference after Naomi's pullout.