Why did Naomi Osaka withdraw from French Open? Tennis star explains sudden decision to step away

Why did Naomi Osaka withdraw from French Open? Tennis star explains sudden decision to step away

Naomi Osaka’s 2021 French Open has come to an end.

The 23-year-old tennis star and four-time Grand Slam champion confirmed that she would withdraw from the tournament at Roland Garros ahead of her second-round matchup against Ana Bogdan.

In a Twitter post, Osaka detailed her decision to make such a move after refusing to talk to the media and revealed that she has “suffered long bouts of depression” since the 2018 U.S. Open.

MORE: Full 2021 French Open TV schedule, draw, more

A couple parts of Osaka’s statement stand out above all. The first is when she explained her own mental health issues and why speaking to the media brings on “huge waves of anxiety.”

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 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. Though the tennis press has always been kinds to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can. 

Osaka also outlined exactly why she instigated what effectively amounted to her media blackout. She was attempting to “exercise self-care” and shed light on rules that she believes are “quite outdated in parts.”

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. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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. 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. 

Of course, Osaka and the Tour had been at odds about her media blackout. The four Grand Slam tournaments released a joint statement and fined her $15,000 for skipping media obligations after Round 1 of the French Open and threatened a default if she continued to do so.

Osaka lamented that her “message could have been clearer” in her statement, so it would seem that the two sides have a lot to talk about moving forward if Osaka does want some of the “outdated” media rules to change.

Shortly after Osaka’s announcement, FFT president Gilles Moretton made a statement at a press conference and departed before taking any questions.

First and foremost, we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi in our tournament next year. As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being, and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do. Thank you.

So, it would seem that tennis’ governing bodies are at least willing to discuss the issue with her in the future.

But, for now, the No. 2 player in the world will sit out the biggest clay-court event of the year. Before withdrawing, Osaka beat Patricia Maria Tig in two sets, (6-4, 7-6).