Serena Williams and other stars rally around Naomi Osaka after French Open withdrawal
Osaka stunned the tennis world when she pulled out of the Grand Slam after being fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to show up at an obligatory news conference
Fellow tennis stars and athletes have rallied to support Naomi Osaka after the world No 2 withdrew from the French Open in a row about post-match media duties after her admission she had been suffering from depression and anxiety.
Osaka stunned the tennis world when she pulled out of the second Grand Slam of the year after being fined $15,000 by organisers and threatened with expulsion for refusing to show up at a news conference on Sunday.
The Japanese, 23, had made clear her intentions on social media to renege on media duties to protect her mental well-being.
The four-time Grand Slam champion returned to Twitter on Monday to announce her withdrawal.
"I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can go back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris," she wrote.
Osaka said she would speak to ATP Tour officials "when the time is right" about how to "make things better" for the players, media and fans.
The French Tennis Federation termed her withdrawal "unfortunate".
Her withdrawal triggered a wave of support from her peers and fellow athletes.
Serena Williams was asked for her reaction to Osaka's decision following her first-round win over Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu at Roland Garros.
"Honestly I just found out before I walked into the press conference, so that's the extent of it right now for me," Williams said.
I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. Like I said, I've been in those positions
"I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it's like. Like I said, I've been in those positions."
The 23-time Grand Slam champion added: "You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that's the only thing I can say. I think she's doing the best that she can."
Sister Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, posted a tweet message to Osaka: "So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!"
Billie Jean King took to social media to stress the importance of mental health.
"It's incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression," King wrote on Twitter.
"Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well."
Golf's Michelle Wie, American football players Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett as well as multiple Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt offered Osaka their backing.
"You shouldn't ever have to make a decision like this – but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be don't protect their own. Major respect," wrote NBA All-Star Stephen Curry.
There was some criticism of Roland Garros organisers for their handling of the matter.
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton read a prepared statement on Monday offering Osaka their support but the irony of him not taking questions, given the context of the row, was not lost on some.
"So the FFT handled the Ms Osaka mental health concerns without empathy or sensitivity. Then the FFT President refuses to take questions at a presser. An own goal," wrote former Australian tennis official Richard Ings.
Osaka, 23, concluded her statement by saying she would be taking some time away from tennis, potentially ruling her out of Wimbledon at the end of this month as well as this summer's Tokyo Olympic Games already under threat by the coronavirus pandemic.
Updated: June 1, 2021 05:39 PM