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Tennis pro Naomi Osaka opens up about anxiety and depression a year after French Open withdrawal


Tennis pro Naomi Osaka said she is having a ‘blast’ on the court ‘for the first time in a while,’ a year after she withdrew from the French Open due to mental health issues.

Osaka, 24, made headlines when she announced that she was not going to do any press leading up to the French Open in May 2021, saying that reporters often ‘have no regard for athletes’ mental health.’

Her decision became a hot-button issue with some backlash, and days later, the pro athlete announced that she would no longer be participating in the sports event so that she would stop ‘being a distraction’ and so that ‘everyone could get back to focusing on the tennis.’

A year later, Osaka appears to have put the incident behind her — and tells Self she is enjoying herself much more these days. 

‘I really had a blast on court for the first time in a while,’ she said following the Miami Open. ‘I have a new perspective and I’m so appreciative that I have this career and platform. I’m also really energized and motivated.’

Tennis pro Naomi Osaka said she is having a ‘blast’ on the court for the ‘first time in a while,’ a year after she withdrew from the French Open due to mental health issues 

Osaka, 24, made headlines when she announced that she was not going to do any press leading up to the French Open in May 2021

Osaka, 24, made headlines when she announced that she was not going to do any press leading up to the French Open in May 2021

A year later, Osaka appears to have put the incident behind her - and tells Self she is enjoying herself much more these days

A year later, Osaka appears to have put the incident behind her – and tells Self she is enjoying herself much more these days 

Though Osaka faced some public backlash upon withdrawing from the French Open last year, she also received plenty of support.

‘After I opened up about struggles… I spoke to a lot of athletes that told me they too had quietly been suffering,’ she said, citing gymnast Simone Biles, swimmer Simone Manuel, and golfer Mariah Stackhouse reached out to her after she spoke out about her issues.

‘I didn’t expect any of it, and to be honest it was a bit strange … It was a strange feeling and I was shocked that people cared that much.

‘I guess I am glad it gave others the opportunity to also speak up even if that wasn’t my intention or what I expected. It started a conversation that I think we all needed to start having.’

At the time, Osaka posted in a lengthy note to Twitter, in which she wrote, ‘[During press conferences], we’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt in our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.

‘I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well.

Tennis pro Naomi Osaka opens up about anxiety and depression a year after French Open withdrawal

‘I really had a blast on court for the first time in a while,’ she said following the Miami Open 

Tennis pro Naomi Osaka opens up about anxiety and depression a year after French Open withdrawal

‘I have a new perspective and I’m so appreciative that I have this career and platform. I’m also really energized and motivated,’ she said 

‘I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament.’

She added that she hoped the money she paid in fines will go towards a ‘mental health charity.’ 

When asked by Self why she decided to speak out in the first place, the 24-year-old explained, ‘I just didn’t feel like I had to do things for others. I wanted to start listening to myself and doing things that I needed to do to protect my mindset.

‘Speaking up on issues that aren’t always easy to talk about is new to me but something I am really glad I am starting to do. 

‘For me it was just important to tell people how I was honestly feeling at the moment.’

Now, the tennis player said she is talking to a therapist, which has been ‘incredibly helpful’ to her.

‘I have seen therapists in the past but not consistently until now,’ she admitted. ‘I’m super happy that I found the right person who really understands me and has been incredibly helpful.

Despite everything she's been through, Osaka said she is now 'very content' with her 'mental health journey'

Despite everything she’s been through, Osaka said she is now ‘very content’ with her ‘mental health journey’

Osaka said she is now focused less on winning and more on doing stuff that makes her 'happy'

Her French bulldog, Butta, has also brought her an immense amount of comfort

Osaka said she is now focused less on winning and more on doing stuff that makes her ‘happy’

‘It’s kind of a scary first step to take… but I think it can be helpful to everyone in some shape or form and especially so to a large section of people. It doesn’t mean you are broken.’

Osaka also credits meditation and writing in a journal with helping her.

‘I found it really helpful to reflect on the day or… write down what I want to achieve in the day,’ she said.

She also enjoys playing video games like Fortnite, Overwatch, Apex Legends, and the Elder Scrolls, and tries to remind herself to put her phone down and ‘not think about things’ as much as possible.  

Her French bulldog, Butta, has also brought her an immense amount of comfort.  

‘He’s a big source of comfort for me. Whenever you pick him up, he just becomes a big baby,’ she gushed. ‘He’s really good at cuddling. I really love that about him.’

After posting her statement last year, tournament organizer Roland-Garros wrote on its website that it ‘asked Osaka to reconsider her position and tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.’

She is now back to playing tennis after a brief hiatus, and said she is truly enjoying herself on the court for the first time 'in a while'

She is now back to playing tennis after a brief hiatus, and said she is truly enjoying herself on the court for the first time ‘in a while’

‘Naomi Osaka today chose not to honor her contractual media obligations. The Roland-Garros referee has therefore issued her a $15,000 fine, in keeping with article III H. of the Code of Conduct,’ Roland-Garros continuted.

‘The mental health of players competing in our tournaments and on the Tours is of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams.

‘We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being.

‘In order to continue to improve however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences.’ 

Days later, after officially withdrawing from the competition, Osaka spoke further about her issues, writing that although her ‘timing was not ideal’ and that her ‘message could have been clearer,’ she was not going to back down.

‘I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that,’ she wrote.

When asked by Self why she decided to speak out in the first place, the 24-year-old explained, 'I just didn¿t feel like I had to do things for others'

When asked by Self why she decided to speak out in the first place, the 24-year-old explained, ‘I just didn’t feel like I had to do things for others’

‘Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.

‘Though the tennis press has always been kind to me … I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.

‘I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can.’

Despite everything she’s been through, Osaka said she is now ‘very content’ with her ‘mental health journey’ while chatting with Self. 

‘At this stage in my life I feel very content in my mental health journey. I feel comfortable in who I am and where I have come from,’ she told the outlet.

Tennis pro Naomi Osaka opens up about anxiety and depression a year after French Open withdrawal

‘I am glad it gave others the opportunity to also speak up even if that wasn’t my intention or what I expected. It started a conversation that I think we all needed to start having,’ she said

‘There have been ups and downs and I wouldn’t change a thing, which really helps to give me inner peace.’

She recently teamed up with Alyson Watson, the CEO and founder of Modern Health, an app that helps employees and others find mental health resources.

She is back to playing tennis after a brief hiatus, appearing at the Miami Open on April 2, where she made it to the finals before losing in the final round to Iga Swiatek.

And despite the loss, she said she is truly enjoying herself on the court for the first time ‘in a while.’

‘I really had a blast on court for the first time in a while. I have a new perspective and I’m so appreciative that I have this career and platform. I’m also really energized and motivated,’ she concluded.

‘My main goal used to be winning. Lately I have tried to ask myself questions like, “Will this make you happy?”‘





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