The leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments reacted on Tuesday to the stunning withdrawal of tennis player Naomi Osaka from the French Open, promising to respond to players’ concerns about mental health.
The promise came in a statement signed by the same four tennis administrators who threatened to disqualify or remove Osaka on Sunday if it continued to miss press conferences.
The four-time main champion and No. 2 toy was fined $ 15,000 for not speaking to reporters after her victory in the first round at Roland Garros on Sunday. The next day, Osaka withdrew entirely from the tournament, saying it was experiencing “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and revealing that it had “suffered long bouts of depression.”
The 23-year-old Osaka, who was born in Japan and moved with her family to the United States at the age of 3, said that “now it will take some time from the court, but when the time is right, I really want to work on the tour, to discuss ways we can improve things for players, the press and fans. “
Tennis players are required to attend press conferences if required; Grand Slam rules allow fines of up to $ 20,000 if they do not occur.
“On behalf of the Grand Slam, we want to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in every possible way, as it takes time off the court. She is an outstanding athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems it appropriate, “said in a statement on Tuesday from the officials of the French Open, Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. “Mental health is a very challenging issue that deserves our greatest attention. It is both complex and personal, because what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. We congratulate Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressure and worries she is experiencing, and we share the unique pressure that tennis players may face.
French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moreton, England Club President Ian Hewitt, American Tennis Association President Mike McNulty and Australian Tennis President Jane Hrdlichka have pledged to work with players, touring and the media “to improve the players of our tournaments”. , while making sure that all athletes are on a “fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status”.
In a separate statement issued Tuesday to the AP by e-mail, International Tennis Federation official Heather Bowler said the sport would “reconsider what needs to be developed” after Osaka “sheds light on mental health issues”.
“It is in our best interest to ensure that we continue to provide a respectful and quality environment that allows all stakeholders to do their job in the best possible way, without compromising their health and for the benefit of sport,” Bowler wrote. .
Various tennis players, including sisters Serena and Venus Williams, offered support for Osaka.
Venus Williams, 40, who has won seven Grand Slam singles and 14 more doubles titles with her younger sibling, told a news conference after losing the first round on Tuesday at Roland Garros that she believes “definitely it’s not easy to do a press, I think, for everyone. “
Asked how she handled this in her professional career, Williams replied: “For me personally, how do I deal with the fact that I know that every single person who asks me a question can’t play as well as I can and never will, so no matter what you say or what you write, you will never light a candle for me. So I handle it. But everyone handles it differently. “
Others praised Osaka for revealing her personal story in a statement on social media Monday.
“It’s hard. No one really knows what someone is going through, no matter how much they choose to show off. I had no idea about her. But I respect her openness,” said Anne Lee, a 20-year-old American professional after her victory. more and more open and open, which can sometimes be both good and bad. I hope I’m doing well. “
Gael Monfils, a 34-year-old Frenchman who also won on Tuesday, offered a mood certainly shared by many around tennis, from tournament and touring staff to athletes to sports fans.
“We need Naomi. We definitely need it to be 100%, “said Monfils. “We need her on the court, back (at) the press conference – and back happy.”