Japan‘s Osaka left the clay court Grand Slam on Monday after refusing to attend the mandatory post-match press conferences and revealing she had been suffering from bouts of depression for three years.
The 23-year-old has now spoken out for the first time since announcing her decision to pull out of the tournament.
Naomi Osaka has taken to social media for the first time since she withdrew from the French Open
Her decision came after the uproar surrounding her decision not to speak to the media
In an Instagram story, she wrote: ‘Just want to say thank you for all the love. Haven’t been on my phone much but I wanted to hop on here and tell you all that I really appreciate it.’
Osaka said she would be taking some time away from the court and it remains to be seen when she will next play.
The four-time grand slam champion has pulled out of what was scheduled to be her first tournament on grass in Berlin beginning on June 14 and there are question marks over her participation at at Wimbledon.
She announced her intention not to attend press conferences on the Wednesday before her first-round victory over Patricia Maria Tig.
After sticking to her word, a strong joint statement from the Grand Slams threatened the world number two with disqualification and a ban from future tournaments if she did not reverse her decision not to fulfil her media commitments.
Then on the Monday she released a statement saying: ‘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 took to Instagram to thank those who had sent her messages of support
‘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 trivialise 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.
‘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’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.’
Two of tennis’s governing bodies have promised to review the impact of the press on players’ mental health after Osaka’s shocking announcement.
The global governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), has promised a comprehensive review.
It was the first time she had spoken since her decision to withdraw from the Open on May 31
‘Naomi Osaka’s recent statements have shone a light on mental health issues, a matter that we all take extremely seriously,’ the ITF told Reuters.
‘Tennis is aligned and will work together, with input from players and media amongst others, to review what needs to evolve across the sport as a whole.
‘It’s in all our interests to ensure that we continue to provide an environment that enables all stakeholders to do their job to their best ability, without impacting their health, and for the good of the sport.’
Press conferences are obligatory when requested by the media at Grand Slams and even the smallest tournaments allow access to players before the start and if requested on match days, win or lose.
That could change, on the women’s tour at least, after Osaka said that expecting players to answer questions after defeats amounted to ‘kicking a person while they’re down’.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said it would also be launching a review.
Similar to how we review various areas and processes within the tour, the WTA is committed to taking a comprehensive and holistic review of post-match press,’ the WTA said in a statement to Reuters.
Wimbledon organisers, who will host the grass court Grand Slam in three weeks, said changes would take time.
‘Everyone has expressed a desire to work together to create meaningful improvements, so we’ll give some space for that to begin,’ said an All England Club spokeswoman.
It is not yet known when Osaka will return to the court as she takes a break from Tennis