Amidst growing, and from some quarters perhaps unnecessarily vitriolic, pushback surrounding her decision to boycott press conferences at the French Open, Naomi Osaka has announced her withdrawal from the tournament via a statement released on Twitter. The Japanese world #2 had taken issue with the fines levied on players for failing to complete their media duties, even when she claimed it had a negative impact on their mental health, was not well-received by the sport’s authorities.
In a joint statement, the four Grand Slams condemned Osaka’s decision and threatened increasingly large fines as well as a potential ban from the Majors if she maintained her boycott. In announcing her withdrawal from the tournament, Osaka apologised to any members of the press that may have been upset by her decision. She also revealed that she had written privately to apologise the organisers at the French Open in the days following her decision, although it would seem that the focus of her apology was for the disruption caused by her original decision rather than the rationale behind it.
Osaka also spoke of the lengthy bouts of depression she has struggled with since winning her first Major title – in exceedingly difficult circumstances – at the US Open in 2018. The four-time Major champion explained that press conferences have been a source of considerable stress to her due to her social anxiety, but that she felt that the story had become an unnecessary distraction from the tennis and that withdrawing from the tournament was the best choice as a result.
One suspects that this will not be the end of this particular story, however, with Osaka’s decision extremely unusual and certain to make headlines around the globe. She was, despite her lofty ranking, at best a longshot to win the title having never been beyond the third round in Paris, but the departure of such a big name so early on in the tournament will leave her section of the draw more open. But it will surely be some days at least before the fallout from this saga is fully revealed and the attention can indeed return entirely to the tennis.
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