One of the big names in the game, 23-year-old Osaka stunned the tennis world by pulling out of the tournament in Paris on Monday. Following his first-round victory, the winner of four Grand Slams – as previously announced – declined to speak to the press. To quell the uproar that followed, he decided not to take any further action.
Initially, Osaka’s press boycott received little support from allies. Most felt that dealing with the media as a tennis pro is part of life. For example, Kiki Bertens replied when asked: ‘I’ve already answered that question 38 times. Everyone should do what they want to do. But I’ll sit here, make my point and walk away.’
But when the emphasis was on Osaka’s mental state, judgments about her decision bowed. For example, Serena Williams (39) replied, “I wish I could hug him now.” She would like to support her Japanese ally who won a total of 23 Grand Slam titles. “I know how she feels because I’ve been in the same situation.”
According to Williams, Osaka, who reported in a statement from the depression from 2018, must now be given the time and place. “We are all different personalities and everyone handles things differently. We have to let her deal with it as she wants and as she thinks is best for her. That’s all I can say.”
Serena’s older sister Venus Williams (40) also supported Osaka. “Proud of you,” she wrote on Twitter. “Take care of yourself and I’ll see you win again soon!”
Martina Navratilova, 64, a pioneer of women’s tennis who mainly won tournaments in the eighties, feels for Osaka. “As athletes, we are taught to take care of our bodies. But very little attention is paid to the mental and emotional aspect. It is more than holding a press conference or not.
struggle with depression
Billie Jean King (77), a tennis great who achieved many successes during the same time as Navratilova and who fought for equal rights for women, also stressed the importance of mental health. “It’s incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed the truth about her struggle with depression. The most important thing right now is to give her the space and time she needs. We wish her the very best.” ‘
Her own country has embraced Osaka, one of the contenders for an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer, following her candid statement. “Ms Osaka’s health is the first thing to consider,” Japan Tennis Federation director Toshihisa Suchihashi said in a statement on Tuesday. “I wish him a speedy recovery.”
Japanese Chief of Staff Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference that he would “watch him quietly.”
It is unknown when Osaka will return to the tennis courts. When the time is right, she wants to think about improving relations between tennis players, the press and the public. The tennis part of the Olympic Games begins on Saturday 24 July.