Naomi Osaka has thanked fans for their support after her withdrawal from the French Open.
Japan’s Osaka left the clay-court Grand Slam on Monday after refusing to attend mandatory post-match press conferences and revealing she had suffered from depression for three years.
The 23-year-old has now spoken out for the first time since announcing her decision to withdraw from the tournament.
Naomi Osaka takes to social media for the first time since she withdrew from the French Open
Her decision came after the uproar surrounding her decision not to speak to the media media
In an Instagram story, she wrote: “Just want to thank you for all the love. I haven’t been on my phone much, but I just wanted to come here to tell you I really appreciate it.’
Osaka said she would take some time off the field and it remains to be seen when she will play again.
The four-time Grand Slam champion has withdrawn from what would be her first grass tournament in Berlin on June 14, and there are questions about her entry into Wimbledon.
She announced that she would not be attending press conferences on the Wednesday before her first round victory over Patricia Maria Tig.
After keeping her word, a strong joint statement from the Grand Slams threatened the world number two with disqualification and a ban from future tournaments if she didn’t reverse her decision not to honor her media obligations.
On Monday, she released a statement saying: “I think it is now in the best interest of the tournament, the other players and my well-being that I withdraw so that everyone can focus on tennis in Paris again.
She took to Instagram to thank those who sent her messages of support
“I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never downplay mental health or use the term lightly.
“The truth is that since the US Open in 2018 I’ve had long bouts of depression and I’ve had a really hard time with that. Anyone who knows me knows I’m an introvert, and anyone who’s seen me at the tournaments will notice that I often wear headphones as it helps reduce my social anxiety.
“While the tennis press has always been nice to me (and I especially want to apologize to any cool journalists I may have offended), I’m not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before speaking to the global media.
“So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious, so I thought it was better to take care of myself and skip the press conferences. I announced it pre-emptively because I feel the rules are quite outdated in some areas and I wanted to emphasize that.
“I’m going to take some time off the pitch now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the tour to discuss how we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”
Two tennis governing bodies have pledged to review the press’s impact on players’ mental health after Osaka’s shocking announcement.
The global governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), has promised a comprehensive review.
It was the first time she spoke since her decision to withdraw from the Open on May 31
“Naomi Osaka’s recent statements have shed light on mental health issues, a matter we all take extremely seriously,” the ITF told Reuters.
Tennis is aligned and will work together, with input from players and media, among others, to see what needs to evolve in the sport as a whole.
“It is in all of our interests to ensure that we continue to provide an environment where all stakeholders can do their job to the best of their ability, without endangering their health, and in the interest of sport.”
Press conferences are mandatory at the request of the media at Grand Slams and even the smallest tournaments give access to players before the start and, if requested, on match days, win or lose.
That could change, at least on the women’s tour, after Osaka said expecting players to answer questions after defeats was tantamount to “kicking someone while they’re down”.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said it would also launch a review.
Just as we assess different areas and processes during the tour, the WTA is committed to a comprehensive and holistic assessment of the press after the game,” the WTA said in a statement to Reuters.
Wimbledon organizers, who will host the Grand Slam on the lawn in three weeks, said changes take time.
“Everyone has expressed a desire to work together to create meaningful improvements, so we will give some space for that,” said an All England Club spokeswoman.
It is not yet known when Osaka will return to court as she takes a break from Tennis