Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open amid row over press conferences

Naomi Osaka has announced her withdrawal from the French Open, the day after the world No 2 was fined $15,000 (£10,570) for refusing to attend press conferences.

The four-times grand slam champion announced last week that she would not carry out media duties in Paris due to their effects on her mental health. Osaka did speak to media courtside after her first-round win over Patricia Maria Tig, but did not attend a post-match press conference.

Osaka’s actions led to a fine and a stern warning from all four grand slam tournaments that continuing to “ignore her media obligations” could lead to “default from the tournament” and “future grand slam suspensions.”

The Japanese player now appears to have pulled out of the event in response. “I think 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 in a statement posted on Twitter.

“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka added. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept my timing was not ideal, and my message could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize 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.”

Osaka added that attending press conferences causes her to suffer “huge waves of anxiety.” The 23-year-old added: “I am not a natural public speaker. 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,” Osaka continued. “I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.”

Osaka also claimed that she wrote privately to French Open organisers, apologising and saying she would be happy to carry out further media duties after the tournament. “I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she added.

“I’m gonna take some time away from the court now,” Osaka concluded. “Love you guys [and] I’ll see you when I see you.” The French Open have not responded to Osaka’s announcement or confirmed her withdrawal at time of writing.


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