Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open amid the ongoing row regarding her media blackout.
Osaka, the world No. 2 from Japan, had decided against attending press conferences during the tournament and was subsequently fined £10,574 and threatened with expulsion as well as a future ban at other major events.
However, she has now taken matters into her own hands and pulled out as an act of ‘self-care’.
She admitted she was feeling ‘vulnerable and anxious’ having struggled with bouts of depression since the US Open final in 2018 – where her win over Serena Williams was overshadowed by her opponent’s row with umpire Carlos Ramos – and will now ‘take some time away from the court’.
She wrote in a statement on social media: ‘Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posed 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.
‘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 trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. 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.
‘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.
‘Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologise especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.
‘I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give the best answers I can
‘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‘I announced it pre-emptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that.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 apologising and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense.
‘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. Anyways I hope you are all doing well and staying safe, love you guys and I’ll see you when I see you.’
Osaka was due to face Romania’s Anna Bogdan in round two but her opponent will now advance to the third round.