PARIS—Japan’s Naomi Osaka stunned the French Open on Monday when she announced she was withdrawing from the tournament in the wake of her decision to boycott post-match media duties, explaining she had been suffering from depression for almost three years.
Osaka said in the build-up to the tournament that she would not attend the obligatory press conferences, citing that the way journalists quiz players adversely impacts her mental well-being.
The four-time Grand Slam champion made good on her threat on Sunday when, after winning her first round match, she did not hold a press conference.
She was fined $15,000 by the Roland Garros referee and Grand Slam organizers later issued a statement warning of possible expulsion from the French Open and future majors if she fails to change her stance.
On Monday, the world number two decided to take matters into her own hands to end the stand-off.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” the 23-year-old Osaka said on Twitter.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that 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.”
Osaka, one of the biggest name’s in women’s sport, went on to say she had suffered from depression since 2018.
“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” she said.
“Anyone that knows me knows 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.”
After beating Serena Williams to claim her first major at the 2018 U.S. Open, Osaka was booed by the crowd during the presentation ceremony as her victory was overshadowed by the American’s outburst following a row with the umpire.
Osaka said that since then, she has struggled with being in the spotlight.
American Sofia Kenin, who won the Australian Open and finished runner-up at Roland Garros last year, said: “It’s definitely not easy. I mean, this is what you signed up for. This is sport.
“There’s expectations from the outside, sponsors, and everyone. You just have to somehow manage it. You have to have a good team around you who support you.”
There was no immediate response from tournament organizers.
Osaka added that she later wanted to meet the sport’s organizers to improve the system.
“I wrote privately to the tournament apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the slams are intense,” Osaka said.
“I’m gonna 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.”
By Julien Pretot