Serena Williams Supports Naomi Osaka After French Open Withdrawal
Photo Credit: Al Bello for Getty Images
Naomi Osaka has had the Internet talking for nearly a week after announcing she wouldn’t be doing press at the French Open.
Following this decision, the tennis star was hit with a $15,000 fine in addition to a threat of expulsion. In response to the fine and the potential expulsion, Osaka chose to withdraw from the tournament.
Osaka also released a statement expanding on her decision to not engage with the press: her mental health. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, and 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 wrote. Naomi added, “I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 31, 2021
Almost immediately, Osaka was met with widespread support from other athletes including Serena Williams, Steph Curry, Venus Williams and Coco Gauff. Curry shared, “You shouldnt ever have to make a decison like this-but so damn impressive taking the high road when the powers that be dont protect their own.”
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) May 31, 2021
stay strong ❤️ I admire your vulnerability
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 31, 2021
In an Instagram comment, Venus wrote, “So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
When asked about her reaction to the news, Serena said:
“The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi. I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. I’ve been in those positions.”
She also shared, “We have different personalities, and people are different. Not everyone is the same. I’m thick. Other people are thin. You just have to let her handle it the way she wants to, in the best way she thinks she can, and that’s the only thing I can say. I think she’s doing the best that she can.”
Regardless of what naysayers might believe, Osaka is setting a precedent for the future of sports. It’s commendable that she’s speaking up about her mental health, especially given the immense level of pressure that’s placed on athletes particularly Black and brown athletes. We stand in solidarity with her.