Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, 23, listed Meghan Markle, 39, as one of many celebrities who offered her support when she withdrew from the French Open to focus on her mental health in a new Time op-ed. After thanking friends and family for sticking by her side, Naomi showed her appreciation to the celebrities who had her back. “I also want to thank those in the public eye who have supported, encouraged and offered such kind words,” she wrote.
Besides Meghan, Naomi also mentioned that former First Lady Michelle Obama, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, NBA star Steph Curry, and fellow tennis pro Novak Djokovic had reached out to her. While Naomi didn’t say what Meghan told her, it seems the simple gesture of offering help and kindness was appreciated. Of course, Meghan has been open about her own struggles with mental health. The Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 that she had suicidal thoughts while pregnant with her son Archie in 2019.
Even though Naomi didn’t expand on what Meghan said, she did share part of Michael Phelps’ advice. “Michael Phelps told me that by speaking up I may have saved a life. If that’s true, then it was all worth it,” she concluded the op-ed.
Naomi first mentioned her struggles with mental health after she withdrew from the French Open in May. She had been fined $15,000 and was threatened to be barred from future Grand Slam tournaments for skipping a press conference. At the time she wrote that she “thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences,” in a statement on Instagram. In the op-ed, she touched on her feelings about the press, saying that she regularly gives in-depth interviews and just felt that the traditional press conference “is out of date and in great need of a refresh,” but it doesn’t seem like many people in the tennis community want to change it. “Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions,” she wrote.
After the French Open, Naomi also withdrew from Wimbledon to continue working on her mental health. Even though she took time away from the major tennis tournaments, Naomi wrote in the op-ed that she’s excited to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which begin on July 23. “[T]o have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud.