"Even though it shouldn't have to be like this, I'm proud of you for putting your foot down. Your mental health matters and should always come first," Olympian gymnast Laurie Hernandez wrote to Naomi Osaka

By Naledi Ushe
May 31, 2021 10:43 PM
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Stars across the sports world are standing behind Naomi Osaka.

On Monday, the reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open singles champion announced she was withdrawing from the French Open.

Ahead of the tennis tournament's start, Osaka announced she wouldn't be doing press during the championship in an effort to preserve her mental health. On Sunday, Osaka picked up her first win and a $15,000 fine for not participating in media requirements.

"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, 23, wrote on social media. "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."

In the wake of her announcement, Osaka's famous friends and fans showed her their support.

Serena Williams spoke out during a post-match news conference on Monday. "I feel for Naomi. Not everyone is the same. I'm thick. Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to and the best way she thinks she can. That's the only thing I can say: I think she is doing the best she can," she said, according to the Associated Press.

Williams, 39, added that many of the press conferences have been "very difficult," but they have "made me stronger." 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka
| Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Image

18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova tweeted, "I am so sad about Naomi Osaka. I truly hope she will be ok. As athletes we are taught to take care of our body, and perhaps the mental & emotional aspect gets short shrift. This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi —we are all pulling for you!" 

Billie Jean King — 39 Grand Slam winner in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles — also tweeted, writing, "It's incredibly brave that Naomi Osaka has revealed her truth about her struggle with depression. Right now, the important thing is that we give her the space and time she needs. We wish her well."

Grand Slam tennis competitor Coco Gauff tweeted, "Stay strong I admire your vulnerability," while Olympian gymnast Laurie Hernandez wrote, "Even though it shouldn't have to be like this, I'm proud of you for putting your foot down. Your mental health matters and should always come first."

Other athletes who spoke out included Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry, WNBA alum Lisa Leslie, Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love, and Seattle Seahawks football star Russell Wilson.

"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," Curry said

"It's so sad that we are in a time that when a young person tells you they need help or a break, people respond with anger and a lack of support! I stand with you ... Your mental health is just as important as your physical health." Leslie said

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Love tweeted, "Love, respect, and positive energy your way," while Wilson tweeted, "We are with you @naomiosaka #Courage."

Other athletes and celebrities voiced their support for Osaka in her comments section on Instagram.

Olympic track star Usain Bolt commented with prayer hand emojis. 

"So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon! ❤️❤️❤️," tennis pro Venus Williams said. 

And Osaka's boyfriend Cordae commented, "No need to apologize to ANYBODY !"

Osaka received love too from stars across the entertainment industry and political field.

Jameela Jamil called to "boycott the French open." "Naomi is the most exciting player anyway. Imagine punishing someone for having anxiety... in 2021," the Good Place star said

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Osaka on Twitter, "Proud of you."

Chelsea Handler wrote on Instagram, "Good for you," while Rita Wilson told the tennis star to "Take care of yourself" and "Stay well."

And Jordin Sparks similarly said, "You do what's best for you. Period. Sending you so much love. 🤍🙌🏽."

"It's the tourney's loss and our loss as viewers The Open did not support you more 🎾 Your return will be epic I know 💥 ," Jaleel White said.

From one Naomi to another, Naomi Campbell told the tennis pro, "take care of you and be kind and easy on yourself , your health comes first ..gracious and brave for you to share with the world .your in my thoughts and prayers .❤️❤️❤️."

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

In Osaka's announcement that she was withdrawing from the French Open, she wrote, "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."

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The four-time Grand Slam winner revealed she's "suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018" and that post-match interviews made her "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. 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," Osaka added. "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."

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.