Osaka Withdrawal Decision Spotlights Issues

By Ben Hamill - June 04 2021

 Osaka Withdrawal Decision Spotlights Issues

Current tennis world No. 2 Naomi Osaka’s controversial announcement that she’s withdrawn from this year’s French Open continues to make headlines across the world. The four-time champion earlier this week announced her official withdrawal from the competition at Roland Garros after she got slapped with a $15,000 fine from local tournament authorities for refusing to participate in the French Open’s post-match news conference on opening day.

Osaka during the week prior to the event announced that she would not be answering questions from the media over concerns for her own mental well-being. The world No. 2 recently issued a formal statement via her agent, in which she sets out an explanation detailing “long bouts” of depression suffered beginning with the U.S. Open in 2018.

Osaka’s decision once again highlights the many pressures of competing at the highest levels of the sport, and most notably that associated with interacting with the media in what is considered an increasingly more predatory culture in sport than ever before.

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A Mixed Response

While some of Osaka’s fellow high-profile players have voiced understanding for the fact that players are contractually obliged to address and interact with the media reporting on Grand Slam and other big events, others have sympathised with the 23-year-old and her point of view.

One such voice has been that of Dame Susan Devoy, who is a former squash world champion. Dame Devoy said this week that she’s able to relate with the tennis star’s decision on a very personal level since she too, experienced similar mental health and depression struggles during over the course of her own career.

Dame Devoy said that while she’s long retired, the memories of the anxiety and depression remain fresh in her memory. According to Devoy, she had reached a place of living in absolute dread prior to press conferences, adding that for her personally, the mental preparation in anticipation of interacting with members of the media made up the bulk of her efforts, with only about 20 per cent coming down to physical preparations for matches and tournaments.

Devoy said few people knew back then that her battle with depression had spanned all of 10 years of her professional playing career.

Officials Issue Apology To Osaka

Roland Garros tournament organisers have in the meantime apologised to Osaka for the struggles experienced within a particularly negative media culture in tennis. They’ve also promised to start putting the necessary safeguards in place to as to bring about a positive change.

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