Naomi Osaka says she will withdraw from the French Open, announcing Monday on social media that she will “take some time away from the court” one day after she was fined and threatened harsher sanctions for skipping her mandatory media obligations.
Osaka, in a lengthy statement, said she “never wanted to be a distraction” and that her withdrawal is “the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being.”
A spokeswoman for the tournament said the French Open was not aware of Osaka’s withdrawal. Osaka’s agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
“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,” Osaka wrote. “I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and message could have been clearer.”
Osaka, 23, also revealed she has battled depression and anxiety since winning her first major at the 2018 US Open and explained speaking to the media often makes her nervous. She apologized to any media members she had impacted with her decision.
“I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media,” she said. “I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try and engage and give [the media] the best answers I can.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
The four-time major champion and No. 2 seed in this clay-court Grand Slam announced Wednesday that she would not be participating in any news conferences during the tournament, citing her mental health as the motivation for the decision.
Osaka’s announcement sparked much debate in the tennis and sports world, and other players, notably 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, have said they respect Osaka’s right to take a stance but explained that they consider speaking to reporters part of the job. She was fined $15,000 for skipping her postmatch news conference Sunday after her victory against Patricia Maria Tig.
In addition to Sunday’s fine, Osaka drew a surprising warning from all four Grand Slam tournaments that she could face stiffer penalties, including disqualification or even suspension, if she continues to avoid the media.
Osaka, who was next scheduled to take on Ana Bogdan in the second round Wednesday, said she hoped she could have a conversation with officials from the WTA upon her return.
“I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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