'Osaka Will Get Masses To Understand': Mental Health Debate Ramps Up After Naomi Withdrawal

Naomi Osaka, four-time Grand Slam champion and Tennis star announced on Thursday she was withdrawing from Wimbledon due to reasons implied to be relating to mental health, and tennis fans have a lot to say about the matter.

Her official statement read, "Naomi won't be playing Wimbledon this year. She is taking some personal time with friends and family. She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans."

The majority of reactions to her most recent announcement appear to be positive, although some are questioning her intentions, and disgruntled tennis fans have not been holding back on Twitter.

"I'm just curious if these athletes would pull out of 'work' if they weren't sitting on millions. I personally go through mental health issues and I don't have the luxury to just not go to work," one user wrote.

Another tweeted, "She's becoming a hard courts-only player. At nearly 24 she needs to start playing seriously on grass and clay soon, or it'll be too late, and she'll lose the chance to be a real tennis great."

Many are disappointed by her decision, but many more are taking the opportunity to claim that Osaka is changing the way sports will view its players.

"Mark my words," sports reporter Darren Rovell tweeted on Thursday, "In 20 years, Naomi Osaka will be known as the person who finally got the masses to understand that there is no difference between mental health and physical health. What she is doing here by withdrawing from Wimbledon is more than she can ever win on the court."

Mark my words. In 20 years, Naomi Osaka will be known as the person who finally got the masses to understand that there is no difference between mental health and physical health.

What she is doing here by withdrawing from Wimbledon is more than she can ever win on the court. https://t.co/sxvoj01kXv

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 17, 2021

Sports analyst and former NFL linebacker, Emmanuel Acho, tweeted on Thursday, "Continually proud of Naomi Osaka, take as much time away from the game as necessary. Your fans aren't going anywhere."

Continually proud of Naomi Osaka, take as much time away from the game as necessary. Your fans aren’t going anywhere. https://t.co/PJlFtzhEmk

— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) June 17, 2021

Dez Bryant, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, tweeted: "A couple of years back I turned down 20+million dollars because of my mental health concerns...To see @naomiosaka stance on her mental health is unbelievable.. it's a lot of athletes and people in this world put a happy mask on over their pain.

"Salute to you queen."

A couple of years back I turned down 20+million dollars because of my mental health concerns...

To see @naomiosaka stance on her mental health is unbelievable.. it’s a lot of athletes and people in this world put a happy mask on over their pain

Salute to you queen 👑

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) June 17, 2021

And National Women's Hockey League player Madison Packer tweeted on Thursday, "Naomi Osaka is making monumental change on and off the court. MENTAL HEALTH IS PHYSICAL HEALTH. Professional athletes are not above the struggle. Respect to a world class athlete who is moving the needle for conversation surrounding mental health in sport. #MentalHealthMatters."

Naomi Osaka is making monumental change on and off the court. MENTAL HEALTH IS PHYSICAL HEALTH. Professional athletes are not above the struggle. Respect to a world class athlete who is moving the needle for conversation surrounding mental health in sport. #MentalHealthMatters https://t.co/cGBnmR43Vj

— Madison Packer (@madison_packer_) June 17, 2021

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal also announced his withdrawal from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, making the decision "after listening to my body."

One fan was quick to point out the disparity in reactions to both players' announcements, tweeting, "All the same folks applauding Nadal for not playing for his health are being arseholes towards [Osaka] for doing the same. Freaking typical."

All the same folks applauding Nadal for not playing for his health are being arseholes towards her for doing the same. Freaking typical.

— 🥀Queen Sheba 👑 (@SabaSmw) June 17, 2021

After dropping out of the French Open at the end of May, Osaka received a wide array of support from celebrities and fellow athletes.

"As athletes we are taught to take care of our body," tweeted Tennis star Martina Navratilova, "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!"

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!

— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 31, 2021

And Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast, spoke recently to USA Today, who said in reference to Osaka, "Every person knows what they need to do to fix themselves, to heal themselves, and everyone's different. Being an athlete, we go through so much already. If you need to step back, that's what you need to do."

More positive reactions from her fellow athletes are sure to come.

Osaka received her fair share of backlash on the matter as well. After withdrawing from the French Open, Piers Morgan took to his column for The Daily Mail to brand her an "arrogant spoiled brat whose fame and fortune appears to have inflated her ego to gigantic proportions."

"One thing's very clear: this has got nothing to do with mental health," Morgan wrote. "What Osaka really means is that she doesn't want to face the media if she hasn't played well, because the beastly journalists might actually dare to criticize her performance, and she's not going to 'subject' herself to 'people that doubt me.'"

Wimbledon tweeted on Thursday that Osaka will be "greatly missed," and it was "wishing you all the best at home and the Olympics and hope to welcome you back next year."

You'll be greatly missed, @naomiosaka - wishing you all the best at home and the Olympics and hope to welcome you back next year pic.twitter.com/avQzhFDm8U

— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 17, 2021
French Open Tennis. Roland-Garros 2021.
Naomi Osaka of Japan during her match against Patricia Maria Tig of Romania in the first round of the Women's Singles competition on Court Philippe-Chatrier at the 2021 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on May 30 in Paris. Osaka announced Thursday she was withdrawing from Wimbledon but will be ready to play in the Tokyo Olympics. Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images