Published On: Tue, Jun 1st, 2021

Grand Slam tournament leaders vow to address mental health concerns from Naomi Osaka

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Leaders from all four Grand Slam tournaments have pledged to address mental health concerns seriously after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open. Osaka, the world’s No. 2 player, was facing steep fines, disqualification and suspension from future tournaments over her refusal to speak to media outlets during the tournament.

“While players’ wellbeing has always been a priority to the Grand Slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions,” the organizations said in a statement Tuesday. “Together as a community we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media.”

The Grand Slam organizations, made up of Tennis Australia, the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and the U.S. Tennis Association, said they would work with their players and media to create “meaningful improvements” to their policies, which currently require players to attend all press conferences. 

The statement did not mention any specific changes the organizations are considering or planning to make.

“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” the Grand Slam organizations said after Osaka announced she would not participate in press conferences during the French Open. 

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka of Japan in Paris on May 30, 2021.

Julian Finney / Getty

Osaka was fined $15,000 on Sunday for failing to attend the post-match press conference after her first-round win over Patricia Maria Țig. Facing the threat of further fines, disqualification from the French Open and suspension from future Grand Slams, Osaka announced she would instead withdraw from the tournament entirely.

“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 said in a public statement. “I never wanted to be a distraction.”

The four-time Grand Slam winner revealed that she suffered from “huge waves of anxiety” during media appearances and had been struggling with anxiety and depression since her 2018 win at the U.S. Open. She said not appearing in front of the media was her way of protecting her mental health.

The Grand Slam leaders have offered Osaka their “support” and said they look “forward to her return.” 

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