Naomi Osaka withdraws from French Open over media duties uproar
Paris, France - Naomi Osaka has announced that she will be withdrawing from the French Open because of the furore caused by her boycott of media duties, and plans to "take some time away from the court now."
The world number two won her opening match against Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday.
Yet, her decision not to take part in press conferences or interviews has been the biggest talking point of the tournament.
The grand slams reacted strongly to Osaka's move, releasing a joint statement on Sunday that threatened her with potential disqualification and a ban from future tournaments should she not reconsider.
Osaka definitely thought it over – and before the tournament could take action against her, removed herself from the event on Monday.
Osaka, who cited mental health reasons, wrote on Twitter: "This isn't a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now 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 she had suffered bouts of depression since winning her first slam title at the US Open in 2018 and that talking to the media triggered anxiety.
Osaka said she never intended to be a distraction
Osaka continued on Monday that she was overwhelmed by the attention her boycott brought.
"I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer," she continued on Twitter. "More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly."
She then opened up about her struggles.
"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," she said.
"Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."
Osaka explained that her issues were worsened by media pressure.
"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me....I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media."
Osaka's sister steps in to defend her
Osaka's sister Mari attempted to explain more about her sibling's stance with a post on the website Reddit, highlighting her feelings of vulnerability on clay, but then deleted her words and replaced them with an apology – saying she felt she had made things worse.
The tennis star's lengthy Twitter post continued: "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. I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that."
"I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the slams are intense," she added.
But it seems she has made a decision about her participation before the tournament could make one for her.
"I'm gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," she finished.
The uncertainty about how much time she will now take away from the sport has sent tennis fans into a further tailspin over the controversy.
Cover photo: IMAGO / Starface