Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open

Naomi Osaka, one of the highest-paid athletes in the world has shocked the tennis world by skipping her post-match press conference at French Open. Osaka defeated Patricia Maria Tin on the tournament’s opening day. She announced that she wouldn’t be chatting to media post matches due to concerns over her mental health. She was fined $15,000 for skipping the press conference. And now in a turn of events, she finally withdrew from the French Open saying that she is not a social person and has been coping with depression since the US Open in 2018 and explained that chatting with the media often makes her nervous.

She quoted-

I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athlete’s mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” the 23-year-old wrote. “We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m not just going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”

Her announcement got support from 18-time Grand Slam champion, Martina Navratilova who said that she is so sad about Naomi Osaka and says mental health gets short shrift. While the majority supported the athlete, Rafael Nadal, 15 times French Open winner is on the other side.

“I understand her, but on the other hand, for me, I mean, without the press, without the people who normally travel, who are writing the news and achievements that we are having around the world, we probably will not be the athletes that we are today. We [wouldn’t] have the recognition that we have around the world, and we will not be that popular, no?”

This is not the first time she has raised her voice, she wore 7 different masks with the name of victims on them at the US Open to support the African-American victims. Osaka is a human being before an athlete so she has all the rights to protect herself and tell the sports world what she is going through.

Few polls show that players are more vulnerable to have anxiety. The key findings of an Orygen survey of 749 AIS-supported athletes are that athletes were significantly more likely to report ‘high to very high psychological distress compared to general community norms (17.15 percent versus 9.5 percent) and more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety at A level that might warrant professional health care. If an Athlete is raising their voice for mental health issues that prevail in the sports industry is taking a stand. Naomi Osaka paid the fine and took a stand for something which many Athlete goes through but unfortunately can’t shell out such a hefty amount in fine. She was expected to be fined $140,000 if she doesn’t appear at any of the press conferences. However, she withdrew from the French Open on Monday.

Mental health wellbeing should be paramount in the sports industry. It’s about time that media and sportsperson should start talking about the athlete’s mental health. We see the performance of an Athlete but not the real struggle of being one. The pain, frequent travel, rigorous tournament schedule, personal loss, any of these can sometimes hinder a sportsperson’s mental health. If you have been supportive of her on the court then root for her now. This is something bigger than sports. Osaka has taken a stand on her well-being and said NO to something which was not good for her. I support her stand. She even hoped that the amount would be donated to a mental wellness charity. We need more Mental Health professionals in the sports industry in the upcoming years who will work closely with an athlete.