Meghan Markle Quietly Supported Tennis Star Naomi Osaka's Mental Health Decision

The athlete thanked celebrities like Meghan Markle, Michelle Obama and Michael Phelps for their support after she withdrew from the French Open in May

Meghan Markle secretly shared her support for tennis star Naomi Osaka after the athlete withdrew from the French Open in May in an effort to preserve her mental well-being.

Penning a powerful new essay for TIME, Osaka thanked a number of famous faces for their encouragement of her decision.

"I want to thank everyone who supported me. There are too many to name, but I want to start with my family and friends, who have been amazing. There is nothing more important than those relationships. I also want to thank those in the public eye who have supported, encouraged and offered such kind words," the 23-year-old tennis player said. "Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, Novak Djokovic, Meghan Markle, to name a few."

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Meghan Markle</a>; Naomi Osaka
Meghan Markle; Naomi Osaka. Chris Jackson/Getty; Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty

She also added, "Michael Phelps told me that by speaking up I may have saved a life. If that's true, then it was all worth it."

Osaka appeared as a guest on Meghan and Prince Harry's first podcast episode for Archewell Audio on Spotify in December, when guests reflected on 2020.

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Meghan markle</a>
Meghan Markle. Chris Jackson/Getty

Meghan, who welcomed daughter Lilibet Diana last month, is a big fan of tennis. In addition to attending events like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, she counts Serena Williams among her circle of friends. In addition, Meghan, 39, and Prince Harry, 36, have been longtime advocates of mental well-being.

In the Apple TV+ series The Me You Can't See, created by Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey, the Duke of Sussex shared that Meghan was the one who inspired him to seek mental health help.

Through therapy, Harry said he gained "one of the biggest lessons" in his life. "You've sometimes got to go back and to deal with really uncomfortable situations and to be able to process it in order to be able to heal. For me, therapy has equipped me to be able to take on anything. That's why I'm here now. That's why my wife is here now."

Harry later added, "We chose to put our mental health first. That's what we're doing. And that's what we will continue to do."

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a>, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Rosa Woods - Pool/Getty Images

Ahead of the French Open's start in late May, Osaka said she wouldn't be doing press during the championship in an effort to preserve her mental well-being. She then picked up her first win and a $15,000 fine for not participating in media requirements.

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She subsequently announced she was pulling out of the tournament, adding in a statement that she "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."

Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during the quarterfinals of the 2021 Australian Open on February 16 2021, at Melbourne Park
Naomi Osaka. Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire via Getty

In her personal essay for TIME, Osaka recalled the pressure she felt to cite mental health as her reason for withdrawing.

"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy," she wrote.

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"In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms — frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me," continued Osaka. "I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones. I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet."

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