Naomi Osaka Gets Support From Grand Slam Leaders Days After She's Threatened With Suspension

Tennis star Naomi Osaka's sudden withdrawal from the French Open has prompted the leaders of four Grand Slam tournaments to address players' mental health.

The four tennis administrators who signed a statement in support of players' mental health concerns are the same ones who threatened to disqualify or suspend Osaka on Sunday after she skipped a news conference. Osaka responded by saying she is struggling with anxiety and depression.

The No. 2-ranked player was fined $15,000 for skipping a news conference after her first-round victory at Roland Garros on Sunday. She withdrew from the competition the next day, saying she experiences "huge waves of anxiety" before meeting with the media and that she has "suffered long bouts of depression."

The 23-year-old, who was born in Japan and moved to the U.S. with her family as a toddler, said she would "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."

Osaka
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open on Monday, citing the anxiety she feels before speaking to the media. Here she’s seen at the Miami Open on March 31. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so; Grand Slam rules allow for fines up to $20,000 if they don't show up.

"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," Tuesday's statement from officials in charge of the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open said. "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. 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."

French tennis federation President Gilles Moretton, All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt, U.S. Tennis Association President Mike McNulty and Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka pledged to work with players, the tours and media "to improve the player experience at our tournaments" while making sure the athletes all are on a "fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status."

In a separate statement issued Tuesday to the AP via email, International Tennis Federation official Heather Bowler said the sport will "review what needs to evolve" after Osaka "shone a light on mental health issues."

"It's in all our interests to ensure that we continue to provide a respectful and qualitative environment that enables all stakeholders to do their job to their best ability, without impacting their health, and for the good of the sport," Bowler wrote.

Various tennis players, including Serena Williams, offered support for Osaka and praised her for being forthcoming in her statement on social media Monday.

"It's hard. Nobody really knows what anyone is going through, no matter how much they choose to show on the outside. I had no idea about her. But I respect her openness," 20-year-old American pro Ann Li said after winning her first-round match Tuesday at Roland Garros.

"Our generation is becoming more open and open, which can be a good thing and also a bad thing sometimes. I hope she's doing OK."

Gael Monfils, a 34-year-old from France who also won Tuesday in Paris, said he could relate to Osaka's concerns to an extent.

"It's a very tough situation for her. I feel for her, because I have been struggling quite a lot as well," Monfils said. "What she's dealing is even tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things. I think she's quite young. She's handling it quite well. Sometime we want maybe too much from her ... so sometime, for sure, she is going to do some mistake."

And then Monfils offered a sentiment surely shared by many around tennis, from tournament and tour officials to athletes to the sport's fans.

"We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100%," Monfils said. "We need her back on the court, back (at) the press conference — and back happy."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan conducts an on-court interview at the 2021 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 30 in Paris. Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images