Last month, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, citing efforts to preserve her mental health

By Karen Mizoguchi
June 17, 2021 03:10 PM
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Nearly a month after withdrawing from the French Open citing efforts to preserve her mental health, Naomi Osaka has decided to not participate in Wimbledon.

"Naomi won't be playing Wimbledon this year. She is taking some personal time with friends and family," her agent Stuart Duguid said in a statement on Thursday ahead of the tennis tournament's June 28 start date.

"She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans," Duguid added, referencing the Tokyo Olympics in July. Osaka will be competing for Japan.

On May 31, Osaka, 23, walked away from the French Open after playing in the first round and was fined $15,000 for not taking part in post-match interviews. Before the tournament began, the athlete — who has suffered from depression since 2018 — had tweeted on May 26 that she would not be doing press and explained how she "felt that people have no regard for athletes' mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one."

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Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
| Credit: Javier Garcia/BPI/Shutterstock

After being fined, Osaka shared a lengthy statement on her social media. "Hey everyone, 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," she wrote. "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."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
| Credit: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

The No. 2 ranked women's tennis athlete 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. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize 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 you the best answers I can."

At the time, Osaka concluded her message, writing: "I'm gonna take some time away from he 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."

The tennis phenom received an outpouring of support from her fans, including celebrities like Will Smith, and fellow athletes LeBron James, Gabby Douglas and more. Nike, who is among Osaka's sponsors, also publicly supported her.

On June 2, administrators for the elite Grand Slam tennis tournaments released a statement addressing athletes' mental health concerns following Osaka's withdrawal from the French Open. The four officials who lead the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open voiced their support for Osaka and pledged to help create a healthier environment for players' mental wellness off the court.

"On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate," the statement read. "Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another."

The statement continued, "We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face," as the officials stressed that players' well-being "has always been a priority to the Grand Slams" and vowed to work with the athletes, tours, media and the tennis community at large "to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions."

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.