Serena Williams showed her support for Naomi Osaka after the 23-year-old, four-time Grand Slam champion announced on May 31 that she was withdrawing from the French Open, citing her mental health. “The only thing I feel is that I feel for Naomi,” the current world #8 in tennis, 39, shared with press following her first round victory at Roland Garros, per CNN. “I feel like I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like. Like I said, I’ve been in those positions.”Prior to playing at Roland Garros, Naomi announced that she would not be participating in press conferences following matches, citing her mental health as the reason for her decision. The world #2 faced a $15,000 fine for choosing not to do press, and was also threatened that she would not be allowed to participate in further Grand Slam tournaments in the future, per ESPN. Upon announcing her withdrawal from the tournament, Naomi took to Instagram to release her statement.
View this post on Instagram
“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 wrote in the May 31 statement. The tennis star also shared that it was never her intention to “be a distraction,” and said her initial message “could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”Naomi bravely revealed in her statement that since her maiden Grand Slam victory at the 2018 US Open, she has “suffered long bouts of depression” and has had a “really hard time coping” with her mental health. The athlete went on to share that she doesn’t see herself as “a natural public speaker,” revealing she often struggles with “huge waves of anxiety” prior to speaking to press. “So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self‑care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that,” she continued.
The reigning Australian Open champion explained that she “wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams as intense.” As for her plan moving forward, Naomi will “take some time away from the court” and offer herself the space that she needs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, consider reaching out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Mental Health Coalition. For those seeking further resources, Teen Line can be reached here.