The leaders of the Grand Slam tournaments pledged to address players’ concerns about mental health on Tuesday, one day after Naomi Osaka’s stunning withdrawal at Roland Garros.
Executives from the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open issued a joint statement.
“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. 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.”
The second-seeded Osaka left the Paris tournament on Monday after she was threatened with potential expulsion should she continue to boycott post-match press conferences.
Osaka, 23, announced last week that she would not speak to the media at the French Open, contending media sessions can negatively impact an athlete’s mental health and confidence. The four-time Grand Slam winner and world’s second-ranked player was fined $15,000 after her first-round victory over Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig 6-4, 7-6 (4) for her failure to take part in the media session.
“This isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago,” Osaka, a native of Japan, wrote Monday on Twitter. “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.
“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. The truth is that I have suffered bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
The statement from the Grand Slam directors — 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 — promised to work with leaders of the WTA, ATP and ITF “to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions.”
“Together as a community we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media,” the statement continued. “Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status. Sport requires rules and regulations to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over another.”
–Field Level Media