Naomi Osaka withdraws from the French Open following media boycott

Jamie Shaw in French Open 31 May 2021
Naomi Osaka (PA Images)

World number two Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the 2021 French Open at after the controversy over her refusal to speak to the media.

Osaka, 23, was fined $15,000 for refusing to attend press conferences at Roland Garros and a joint statement from Grand Slam organisers on Sunday indicated Osaka could face expulsion from the tournament.

Osaka, whose refusal to speak to the media comes as a result of mental health concerns, has now taken matters into her own hands by pulling out of the tournament.

Just 24 hours after beating Patricia Maria Tig in straight sets to reach Round Two, Osaka released a lengthy statement on social media to announce her decision to withdraw from the French Open.

Osaka said that she needed to prioritise her mental health and did not want her press conference boycott to overshadow the tournament.

“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,” Osaka said.

“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing 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 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 kind to me (and I wanna apologise 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.

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“I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.

“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.”

“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.”

The final comment has cast doubt over Osaka’s participation in Wimbledon next month and it is unclear as to when she plans to return to competitive action.

Romania’s Ana Bogdan now receives a walkover into the Third Round at Roland Garros.

A statement from Roland Garros said: “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 at 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.”

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